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780.92 V3711J 


3 1 148 004fin I 


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"MAI DEC 2 7 t977 

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15 13;8 

MAI HOV'91982 

APR I 91988 

MAY 8 15SZ 


The portrait by Sir Gerald Kelly 

(By kind permission of the Executive Committee of 
the Royal College of Music) 


Ralph Vaugkan Williams 



Geoffrey Cumlerkge 


Oxford University Press, Amen House, London B.C. 4 


Geoffrey Cumlerlege, Publisher to the University 

Printed in Great Britain by 
Butler & Tanner Ltd., Frome and London 



THIS book is different in aim from the two recent studies of 
Vaughan Williams by the late Hubert Foss (1949) and Dr. Percy 
Young (1953). It was virtually completed before the latter was 
published. Foss's book was not analytical and contained no ex 
amples in music-type. It did, however, contain a chapter of 
biography from the composer's own pen. Young's book may 
be described as a critical study. Mine is neither biographical nor 
critical but is wholly expository. Its method is that of conventional 
analysis, but its intention is in general to relate technical features 
to aesthetic effect. I believe this to be a sound approach to the 
criticism of a work of art: the listener is confronted with a piece of 
music, he reacts to it and then proceeds to some sort of judgement 
on it; if he can indicate a technical feature in support of his par 
ticular verdict on this or that aspect of the work he makes his 
criticism so much the more precise. Contrariwise, if he notices 
some novel procedure, he will ask himself 'Now why that?' and 
the answer will give him an understanding of the composer's 
expressive purpose. This then, though it sounds rather pompous 
to apply to a book of glorified programme notes, is intended as a 
study in applied aesthetics. 

The origin of the book is simpler still. Many years ago I wrote 
two short booklets (now out of print) in the Oxford University 
Press's 'The Musical Pilgrim' series in continuation of Mr. Alan 
Dickinson's An Introduction to the Music of R. Vaughan Williams. 
It is impossible to keep up with the composer's astonishing pro 
ductivity and rather than pursue him a lap behind with a fourth 
'Pilgrim' it seemed better to publishers and author to try and get 
a more comprehensive view. Even so, I have not succeeded in 
mentioning everything in his output and have been beaten on 
the post by his latest choral work for the Worcester Festival of 
1954, This Day (Hodie). The contents of the two 'Pilgrim' 
booklets have been incorporated, with some modifications, into 
the larger context of this wider survey. 

Musical analysis is notoriously recalcitrant to literary treatment, 



even though Tovey's genius sometimes persuades one otherwise. 
I have tried to relate it to more general ideas about music and for 
the sake of clarity of exposition have allowed myself some repeti 
tion and restatement of ideas in different contexts, when I have 
thought their truth relevant. Ideas do not cease to be true if they 
are repeated (any more than if they are false they become true by 

The only acknowledgements I personally have to make are to 
the late Ernest Irving for putting at my disposal his unique 
information about the Sinfonia Antartica, to Dr. Vaughan Williams 
himself for the answers to a few questions of fact, and again to 
Miss Anne Gilchrist by way of renewal of my acknowledgements 
of 1937, for her help in tracking folk-songs. 


January 1954 


Preface (p. v) 
Acknowledgements (p. be) 


Introduction (p. i). The Sea Symphony (p. 3). The London Sym 
phony (p. 10). The Pastoral Symphony (p. 22). Symphony in F 
minor (p. 29). Symphony in D (p. 41). Symphony in E minor 
(p. 52), Sinfonia Antartica (p. 67). 


Introduction (p. 82). I rfze Fen Country (p. 82). Overture to The 
Wasps^(p. 83). Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (p. 86). 
Partita for Double String Orchestra (p. 91). 


Introduction (p. 96). The Lark Ascending (p. 97). Violin Concerto 
(Concerto Accademico] (p. 99). Piano Concerto (p. 103). Suite for 
Viola (p. in). Oboe Concerto (p. 117). Romance for Harmonica 
(p. 120). 


Introduction (p. 123). Toward the Unknown Region (p. 123). 
Fantasia on Christmas Carols (p. 126). Five Mystical Songs (p. 132). 
Mass in G minor (p. 133). Flos Campi (p. 141). Sancta Civitas 
(p. 150). Three Short Choral Works for the Leith Hill Festival: 
(a) The Hundredth Psalm (p. 154), (b) Three Choral Hymns (p. 156), 
(c) Benedicite (p. 160). Magnificat (p. 163). DOTW Nobis Pacem 
(p. 165). jRVe Tudor Portraits (p. 171). Fantasia on the Old loqth 
Psalm Tune (p. 181). An Oxford Elegy (p. 182). 


Introduction (p. 187). Flourish for a Coronation (p. 188). Serenade 
to Music (p. 189). A Song of Thanksgiving (p. 192). Folk-Songs of 
the Four Seasons (p. 194). Concerto Grosso for String Orchestra 
(p. 204). The Sons of Light (p. 207). 



Introduction (p. 211). String Quartet No. i in G minor (p. 211). 
On Wenlock Edge (p. 213). Phantasy Quintet (p. 215). String 
Quartet No. 2 in A minor (p. 217). Household Music and Suite for 
Pipes (p. 224). 

Introduction (p. 227). Norfolk Rhapsody (p. 229). The Running Set 
(p. 230). English Folk-Song Suite (p. 232). Five Variants of 'Dives 
and Lazarus 9 (p. 233). 

THE SONGS (p. 236) 
CHURCH MUSIC (p. 242) 


Introduction (p. 245). Old King Cole (p. 245). On Christmas Night 
(p. 247). Hugh the Drover (p. 253). Sir John in Love (p. 268). 
Job (p. 299). Riders to the Sea (p. 314). The Poisoned Kiss (p. 324). 
The Pilgrims Progress (p. 343). Film Music (p. 361). 

Index (p. 365) 


EXTRACTS from the Sea Symphony, the London Symphony, 
Old King Cole, the Phantasy Quintet, Toward the Unknown 
Region, Willow Wood, Five Mystical Songs, the Fantasia on 
Christmas Carols, and the Hundredth Psalm are printed by per 
mission of Stainer and Bell Ltd. Extracts from the Pastoral 
Symphony, Hugh the Drover, the String Quartet No. i, the Mass 
in G Minor, Sancta Civitas, the Overture to The Wasps, the 
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and Three Choral Hymns 
are printed by permission of J. Curwen and Sons Ltd. Extracts 
from Four Hymns are printed by permission of Boosey and 
Hawkes Ltd., the extract from The House of Life is printed by 
permission of Edwin Ashdown Ltd., and the verse of the carol 
'Come all you Worthy Gentlemen' is printed by permission of 
Miss Maud Karpeles and Novello & Co. Ltd. 



VAUGHAN WILLIAMS'S idiom, achieved after muck casting about 
in the schools and the wider world of music in the way that has 
been described in many biographical accounts, is so markedly 
personal that it has often drawn on to it the reproach of manner 
ism. It might therefore be supposed that the range of thought to 
be expressed therein would be limited by it. Beethoven put his 
individual stamp upon the lingua franca of the eighteenth century, 
but his idiom is less idiosyncratic than that of the no less inde 
pendent-minded Englishman. Beethoven enormously enlarged 
the scope of what could be said in music from the humanism of 
the Eroica to the pantheism of the Ninth. Yet, bold though the 
claim may be, Vaughan Williams's six symphonies, couched in 
this circumscribed idiom, cover a wider range of human experi 
ence than Beethoven's, although the subjective emotions are no 
where explored so searchingly as in Beethoven's Fourth and Fifth 
Symphonies. Only Sibelius's seven are comparable among modern 
symphonies for variety of mood and musical method. Tchaikov 
sky's six and Dvorak's residual five are monotonously alike by 
comparison and Brahms hardly competes in range with his four 
superb and characteristic creations. 

Vaughan Williams gave programmatic titles to his first three 
and numbers with key assignations to the last three. But they are 
all programme symphonies. In time they stretch from 1912 to 
1948: two are pre-war, two inter-war, and two in-war. The 'Sea 5 
(1912) and the 'London' (1914), bold as they seemed in their break 
with classical procedures, are less radical in idiom than the 'Pas 
toral' (1922) and No. 4 in F minor (193 5) which it is very tempt 
ing to call the 'Fascist', if the name did not carry so great a load of 
reprobation. Nos. 5 (1943) and 6 (1948) are more stardingly unlike 
than Beethoven's Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, though both have 


their identifiable roots in earlier work of the composer. No. 6, 
which the composer forbids us in defiance of all internal evidence 
to call the 'War', has affinities with No. 4. No. 5 is related to The 
Pilgrim's Progress but recalls what we have heard before in many 
another work, so that in some sense it is an epitome of Vaughan 
Williarns's ruminative and apocalyptic styles. It might be called 
the 'Benediction'. 

Vaughan Williams's is the prophetic type of mind in that it 
pierces to the heart of whatever is the object of its penetrating 
gaze. The Old Testament prophet was such a person who could 
see into the nature of good and evil. Such a mind apprehends that 
consequences, however belated, follow from good and evil acts, 
that the mills of God grind maybe slowly but exceeding small, 
and is therefore in a position to foretell with confidence what those 
consequences will be. Prophecy has thus come in common par 
lance to mean, as indeed by the derivation of the word it is entitled 
to foretelling the future. But the essence of prophecy is the 
understanding of the present. The most conspicuous examples of 
prophecy in the complete Old Testament sense of the word in 
Vaughan Williams's music are the Fourth and Sixth Symphonies. 
But there is much also of sheer vision, which is the kernel of 
prophecy, in the Pastoral Symphony, for instance, which sets forth 
that this is what the life of nature is like, and there is much that is 
apocalyptic, that is, a revelation of ultimate Being, in Job and Flos 
Campi, as well as in the works with words of divine revelation, 
like 'Let all the world in every corner sing' and Sancta Civitas. 
Visionary, ruminative, and apocalyptic, but not, be it noted, intro 
spective. Unlike the romantics from Beethoven on through the 
nineteenth century, Vaughan Williams does not turn his gaze 
inwards and write of heart-searchings. His knowledge of human 
nature is not conspicuously less than that of the romantic intro 
verts, but his gaze is extraverted. 'Look around you' was the 
advice he gave to young English composers 'for your inspiration'. 
For himself looking around was the source not merely of his 
inspiration (in the sense of a starting-point for composition) but 
also of his understanding of the world. The extravert is less likely 
than the introvert to get his proportions wrong and his vision 


myopic, provided he has the introvert's sensibility. Vaughan 
Williams looked out in his symphonies first upon the sea, which 
conditions the Englishman's life whether he is aware of it or no, 
then upon London, the great city which gave him the picture of 
urban man, before he turned to the countryside in the 'Pastoral' 
to s6e man as only a part of nature. In No. 4 the prophet sees the 
nature of naked violence triumphant in Europe, and in No. 6 
there is similarly a prophetic warning of what will happen to 
mankind if it persists in its foolish, wicked wars. Only in No. 5 is 
there some turning of the eye within, though here the vision is 
more apocalyptic than romantic despite the slow movement 
being entitled Romanza. 

The Sinfonia Antartica stands outside the symphonic canon 
because of its origin and because its programme is at once avowed 
and detailed, but its sheer size is warrant enough for attaching it 
to the group of symphonies rather than to the other orchestral 
music in smaller forms. 

The Sea Symphony 

The Sea Symphony is a choral work. Is it then a true symphony 
or a cantata in disguise? Other choral symphonies, Beethoven's, 
Mendelssohn's Lobgesang, and even Mahler's Eighth Symphony, are 
only partially choral. In Vaughan Williams's choral symphony the 
orchestra has no independent part to play whatever. Nevertheless 
the orchestral symphony has prescribed the pattern of the work. 
The first movement is substantial and, in spite of the superior 
directing force of words, retains some elements of sonata struc 
ture. The slow movement is slow and is ternary in form. The 
third movement is a Scherzo and is so designated. The finale is 
longer and looser and under its tide, 'The Explorers', might almost 
be an independent cantata. Whitman's poetry, from which the 
text is drawn, is sufficiently flexible to permit of a compromise 
between vocal and instrumental forms. Indeed Whitman arrived 
at his forms from a study of Italian opera, to which he was devoted. 
The thought of the poet in general was congenial to the composer, 


for he had made his bow to the world in Toward the Unknown 
Region, composed in 1905 and first performed at the Leeds Festival 
of 1907. Radical, homespun, natural, adventurous, of the open 
air, these are the epithets of Whitman's poetry which found a 
response in the young composer. He found enough about the sea 
in Whitman, mostly in Sea Drift, to supply him with wh#t he 
wanted for a four-movement vocal symphony. He was at work 
on it from 1905 till it was produced at the Leeds Festival of 1910, 
when he conducted its first performance. 

The words of the first three movements are taken from that 
section ofJLeaves of Grass which is called Sea Drift. Delius's cantata 
of that name is occupied with the first poem of that section. 
Vaughan Williams for his first movement takes 'A Song for all 
Seas, all Ships', prefaced by a fanfare on the chord of B flat minor 
(in the key of D major) and a few lines that come from 'Song of 
the Exposition' in Leaves of Grass: 

Behold the sea itself, 

And on its limitless heaving breast the ships 

See where their white sails, bellying in the wind 

Speckle the green and blue 

See the steamers coming and going in and out of port 

See dusky and undulating the long pennants of smoke. 


Andante maestoso 

This juxtaposition of minor and major triads a third apart is the sea 
itself, just as it says. The same progression is found at the beginning 
of the slow movement and of the Scherzo. It is as succinct an 
image of the sea as could be conceived in tones, just as the mono 
syllables ebb' and 'flow' do it in words. This is one of several ideas 
which run through the movements linking them thematically and 


spiritually. Another is the rhythmic juxtaposition of duplet and 
triplet figures in a melodic phrase. 

The exposition of the symphony, then, begins with Ex. i, 
which is immediately succeeded by the broad tune given out by 
the orchestra, the principal theme of the movement: 

Ex. 2. 


A counter-exposition establishes these ideas. A change of time and 
key signatures brings us to 'to-day a rude brief recitative' and the 
equivalent of a symphonic second subject, the character of which 
is epitomized in the figure 


A moving quaver bass and the Dorian: mode, which can shift 
easily into Aeolian or Ionian (i.e. majoi^, launches the catalogue 
of ships, flags, signals, and sailormen, which is caught up by the 
chorus. A second idea in the second subject is the chant, which 
again is introduced by the baritone and repeated by the chorus: 

*' Andante 

rrr ? ^ J r 1 1 rr ir ^ r ' NT 


And out of these a chant for the sai - lors of all 

The equivalent of the development section begins with the fan 
fare (Ex. i), now in C minor and fitted with different words: 
'Flaunt out, O Sea, your separate flags of nations'. The soprano 
soloist now embarks on an episode in a broad melody in A flat 
with arpeggio accompaniment. The climax, which rightly in a 
symphonic movement comes towards the end of the develop 
ment, is reached when D major, the main key, returns and with 
it a melody derived from Ex. 2, in which threes are interpo 
lated among twos. The recapitulation section (in D) is marked 
'tempo del principio'; the words universalize what have hitherto 


been particularized in Whitman's device of evoking images and 
assonances by a catalogue of nouns, the baritone singing 'A 
pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o'er all brave sailors, all 
seas, all ships', dutifully echoed by the chorus. Finally Ex. 2 (in 
modified rhythm) clinches the movement with a great diatonic 
tune, in which chorus and both soloists are at one. But the move 
ment, as so often with Vaughan Williams, ends quietly. 


The slow movement is in an asymmetrical ternary form. The 
text is the poem 'On the beach at night alone'. The short introduc 
tion is another version of the juxtaposition of the minor triad and 
its major antithesis a major third higher (cf. Ex. i). A chord of 
C minor pulling against a chord of E major spells a tonality of 
E minor which, when reached, allows the baritone soloist to begin 
the declamation of the poem, in which he is echoed by a semi- 
chorus of contraltos. Under the swaying chords of the introduc 
tion there is a short descending figure: 

Ex.5. . 


which is inverted and used in alternation with the descending form 
during this opening section. A lullaby tune emerges from the 
combination to illustrate the old mother swaying and singing her 
husky song. 

Ex. 6. 

The whole of this short section is quiet and subjective it is 
marked 'misterioso' the poet thinks 'a thought of the clef of the 
universes and of the future*. The substance of his thought becomes 
the second subject of the movement in the frank key of E flat 
major. The full chorus is drawn into the dialogue with the soloist. 
The word "distances' causes not a modulation but a jump to G 
major; 'Souls' similarly transfer themselves to A minor and major. 


All 'identities', which would seem to mean living entities, 
whether nations or individual lives, produces a new figure of 
great importance which the composer uses as an emphatic inter 
jection to drive home the poet's assertions: 


In unison, octaves, & double oaavcs ' 

This is the final form of it and it is in C major (or mixolydian) in 
which key the chorus, in six-part harmony coalescing into a 
unison, makes its supreme declaration of faith that past, present, 
and future are held together in one Vast similitude'. 

An orchestral epilogue, with a single exclamation from the 
soloist, returns to the mood and the themes of the opening. It 
is not after all quite so unequal in length as it appears on paper or 
as the longer middle section leads the ear to believe for the time 
is slower. 

IE. Scherzo 

The Scherzo justifies its name in form and spirit. It consists of 
the usual four sections, of which the opening one returns after the 
trio. Its rhythm depicts the play of great waves. It is entitled by 
the composer 'The Waves' and its text is Whitman's 'After the 
sea-ship'. Into it are injected, not very obtrusively, two English 
folk-songs of the sea. 

The juxtaposition of minor and major thirds is again the 
starting-point this time on voices: 

j? x g. Allegro brillante 

~Jr d*~n J 

I <. 5 f 1 



1 ' 

r the 
j 1 


:a - sh 


* * LU 

af- ter the 

whist - ling winds. 

J. ^J 


There is a good deal of writing in thirds and triads for the voices 
and windy chromatic scales for the orchestra. The second 
section of the Scherzo proper is founded on a striding tune in the 
bass which is not recapitulated. At the end of this second idea 
'The Golden Vanity' is quoted high in the orchestra. The trio 


begins largamentein G minor with a fine diatonic tune which is 
good enough to make full quotation imperative: 

Ex. 9. Largamente 

n j JH ' ' ii rif r 

U> r -Tji I 


r J 



This is not organized like a folk-song and has only its English- 
ness in common with a folk-song, though it might conceivably 
have been written by Parry. As if this was not enough, a quotation 
from 'The Bold Princess Royal 9 is woven into the harmony. The 
second section of the trio becomes chromatic, trumpets sliding 
down in 6/4 chords in cross-rhythm. To add to the tumult of 
waters the violins play in 9/8 time and the basses plod steadily in 
angular disjunct intervals. There is an optional cut for the chorus 
during this turbid passage, but voices recover the initiative with 
the return of the Scherzo (Ex. 8). This is much curtailed to make 
way for another allusion to the trio (Ex. 9) now in G major, but 
the last word is with Ex. 8 and the voices are heard shouting two 
superimposed triads of G to the word 'following'. 

W.' The Explorers' 

The finale is called 'The Explorers' and the words come not 
from $ga Drift but from Passage to India. The sea is at first forgotten 
and the poet Eas launched onlus quest for the meaning of it all 
'Now first it seems my thought begins to span thee'. But the 
Soul, in scanning the universe, ever and anon returns to the sea as 
the symbol of its journeyings, 

O we can wait no longer 

We too take ship, O Soul. 

Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas. 

and at the end 

Away O Soul, hoist instantly the anchor 
till the voices die away in 

O farther, farther sail. 


The mood of exploration, with its high courage and its exhilara 
tion, had already been the composer's inspiration with Whitman 
as his poet in Toward the Unknown Region, with which at the age 
of thirty-three Vaughan Williams secured recognition as a com 
poser who was going to count for something in English music. 
The words of Toward the Unknown Region, from Whispers of 
Heavenly Death, have become his motto for life, since at the age of 
eighty he was still pressing forward. His roots are firmly grounded 
in tradition but his mind, as will appear from a survey of the 
symphonies alone, is always turned towards the future. Age has 
but added a deeper and more penetrating vision to the ardour of 

Symphonic form is abandoned in this finale. There is no 
orchestral prelude. Voices and violins in unison sing 

Ex. 10. ( 

f\ i 

Jfe " 2 J ' I J J J ,J J 

vasr Ron -dure swim-ming in space 

which by its shape and its triplet figure is related to Ex. 2 in the 
first movement. In this short introductory section the choral 
writing, though not very contrapuntal, breaks away from the 
block harmony and simple antiphony of the Scherzo. In the next 
section ('andante con moto') Adam and Eve descend from the 
gardens of Asia in a monotonous chant. In the original version 
tenors and bass had sung the words to a tune in unison while the 
orchestra sustained a high-pedal point, but in kter editions the 
choir intones the D and the orchestra pkys the tune (in the Dorian 
mode). A female semi-chorus sings unaccompanied the sad in 
cessant refrain 'Wherefore unsatisfied soul 3 and so the movement 
continues, the music governed entirely by the words. Baritone 
and soprano soloists have a duet which constitutes the chief middle 
section founded on an urgent tune in E flat (the key of the 

Ex. 11. 


which ultimately broadens out into the leitmotiv of twos-and- 
threes which informs most of the big sea tunes of the symphony 
tliis sort of thing: 


'' i J 

J U 

" ^" r = 


There are some optional cuts before the final stage in the 
journey opens with an unaccompanied passage in block harmony 
to the words 

Greater than stars or suns 

Bounding O Soul thou journeyest forth. 

But now the theme of the sea comes up again and the soul is 
bidden to steer for the deep waters only. Deep waters mean 
twos-and-threes in the voice parts as well as in the orchestra, 
which does however have a version of the tune embedded in 
Ex. 12 the alto part. But the kst word grows out of Ex. n, and 
while the voices have tight-packed triads of E flat, the orchestra 
dissolves that chord beyond the range of voices both above and 
below till no more is to be heard the ship has vanished over the 

The London Symphony 

Vaughan Williams's second symphony has a title the London 
and it quotes two tunes of definitely local associations, the 
chimes of Big Ben and the lavender seller's street-cry, also from 
Westminster. Is it therefore programme music? All commentators 
address themselves to this problem of definition and most of them 
say no. The composer himself, like Beethoven in a similar fix, 
tries to extricate himself from the imputation programme music 
is supposed to be in some way inferior to abstract music, like a 
poor relation who belongs to a lower social class. Beethoven quite 
mendaciously says of his Pastoral Symphony that it is not panting, 
which it quite blatantly is, so much as an expression of feeling, 


which it also quite truly is. 'Hearers may if they like localize the 
various movements and themes, but it is hoped that this is not a 
necessary part of the work/ says the composer of the London 
Symphony with a deprecatory deference unusual for him. He 
further says It has been suggested that this symphony has been 
misnamed; it should rather be called Symphony by a Londoner/ 
Which again is untrue. Vaughan Williams did for a number of 
years live in London, but he was born in a Gloucestershire village, 
was at school at Charterhouse in rural Surrey, went to Trinity, 
Cambridge, spent some time in London at the Royal College 
of Music and some time studying in Berlin, but has spent his 
later years at Dorking. His crucial musical experience came to him 
while collecting folk-songs in the villages of East Anglia. No, not 
a symphony by a Londoner: a half quotation, a reminiscence at 
least of 'Searching for lambs' occurs in the first movement; 
Londoners do not normally search for lambs, though there are 
sometimes sheep in Kensington Gardens. 

The fact is that the symphony is programme music but not of 
the detailed sort like Berlioz's Symphonic Fantastique (though 
even that is not quite so particularized a bit of tone-painting as its 
composer would have us believe) or like Schumann's Rhenish 
Symphony. The true programme symphony stems from Bee 
thoven's Pastoral and is exemplified in Mendelssohn's Italian and 
Scottish Symphonies, which no one would mistake for symphonic 
poems in the manner of Liszt and Strauss. Programme symphonies 
may be as unexceptionably regular in construction in so far as 
any symphony after the time of Mozart can be said to be formally 
regular as the sufficiently abstract symphonies of Beethoven and 
Brahms, such as Beethoven's second or Brahms's fourth. But they 
tell of something, outside the weaving of patterns of sound, of 
the Viennese, of the Italian, of the Scottish countryside, of London, 
the flower of cities all. They tell it in patterns of sound. If the 
London Symphony is not a guide-book it nevertheless evokes 
memories of London; it portrays the spirit of the place (it can 
be compared with Delius's Paris in this respect). The Scherzo, 
which is also a Nocturne, is an impression of London at night. 
'Impression' is a word that reminds us that the new impressionism, 


derived from French painting, was being applied to music by 
Debussy at the time when this symphony was being incubated 
and composed. The London Symphony, the first instrumental 
work of any size, if the Tallis Fantasia of 1909 is not counted 
in the same category, is, then, an evocation of London. 

The symphony has been several times revised. It was finished 
by 1914 and had its first performance on March 27 of that year 
at one of the concerts given by F. B. Ellis (an amateur who 
sponsored concerts of the unfamiliar and adventurous and whose 
library formed after his death the nucleus of the music library of 
the Faculty at Oxford). Geoffrey Toye was the conductor then. 
At its next performance in 1918 Adrian Boult, then at the very- 
beginning of his career, was the conductor. It was revised by the 
composer and published in 1920 with a dedication to the memory 
of George Butterworth, killed in the war. Even that revision was 
not final, for there are cuts in the Finale of the 1920 score in 
later editions. It is scored for triple woodwind, cornets in addition 
to trumpets, harp, and in the percussion department jingles and 
glockenspiel as well as the usual triangle, drums, and cymbals. 

The form of the symphony is not very unconventional, but we 
find an Epilogue to balance the Introduction. The Introduction 
to the first movement is also an Introduction to the symphony as 
a whole and the Epilogue to the fourth movement is very much 
the Epilogue to the whole. The first movement is a regular sonata 
movement; the slow movement is ternary; the Scherzo-Nocturne 
is a cross between a normal scherzo and a rondo; the Finale is in an 
immense ternary form with Introduction and Epilogue. 

The Introduction begins with a germinal motif of the rising 
fourth contained in Ex. i. 


This spreads to other parts from the bass and, as is the way with 
such motifs, grows into a melodic phrase (which however remains 


pentatonic, lacking the third and the seventh). A counterpoint 
in contrary motion with Ex. i forms a short section which has 
suggested the comparison of the city to a great beast asleep 
Delius's Paris, it may be recalled, opens with the city similarly 
stirring in its sleep. The beast heaves and pants to the extent of 
breaking off after a few bars with a comma and a pause. The 
woodwind begin to take part in this unfolding of the germinal 
motif and finally play it in oscillating diminution in order to 
work the tempo up to allegro risoluto for the main movement, 
which is marked 'molto pesante'. 

There is considerable wealth of themes in this sonata movement 
whose main key is G minor. Three may be quoted from the first 
subject, four from the second. 

Ex. 2. Allegro nsoluto 2 

/j , rS^Hi 
f%_ n fi hfe 



> L 



> ^ f. 

J fff 


EX. 3. Woodwind 



rl ri^n T.J ' T I T C_| CJ 


Exx. 2, 3, and 4 have no apparent inner connexion, but while a 
tremolando bass underlies Exx. 2 and 3, the change to oscillating 
bass in Ex. 4 (which actually occurs a few bars earlier) is the 
significant feature. Ex. 5 belongs to this group in G minor and 
serves as a bridge to the second subject. This has for its first tune 
Ex. 6, in which the break into a triplet is the important feature; 


for its second, Ex. 7, which is very emphatic and loud and marked 
c poco animato'; for its third a perky street tune accompanied by 
harp and triangle, Ex. 8. 




$ L l. J J^=r 


r rrf^irrrr.^jij/ 


P col 8vi 

IJ JLl Jl 

Between the statement and repetition of this hexatonic tune there 
is a section marked largamente' in which the trombones hurl up a 
syncopated theme, Ex. 9. 


These second subject tunes are telescoped together by way of 
codetta before the development begins with Ex. I. Then comes 
an episode consisting of two tunes, both rather pastoral for the 

Ex. 10. 

Cor anglais 

London scene, Ex. 10 on cor anglais and something suggestive of 
'Searching for lambs' on oboe, Ex. n. 


i ! ' 


The rising fourths of the anacrusis of these tunes relate them to 
the germinal motif, Ex. I. There is still another melodic fragment 
to be taken in the flute plays it quietly but prominently. 

pp $pre$s. 

The middle of the movement consists of a self-contained episode 
based on the first theme of the second subject, Ex. 6. It is made 
distinctive by its scoring for harp and string quartet; its place is 
made geographically plain by a single strand of string solo which, 
rising from a low C sharp, both insulates the episode from, and 
connects it to, the preceding material. The connexion to the 
recapitulation is made by Ex. 10, handed from one wind instru 
ment to its neighbour and linking hands with Ex. 12. There is 
some premonitory tremolando rumbling as the time changes to 
'tempo alia primo' and the recapitulation begins with Ex. 2 
modified and abbreviated. Exx. 3 and 4 also put in brief appear 
ances. Ex. 7 insists that the second subject must be heard, but what 
appears after this herald's fanfare is the street tune (Ex. 8), its first 
idea (Ex. 6) having been referred to in the middle episode of the 
development section. The second subject material is enhanced by 
augmentation. Thus the tune which appeared simultaneously with 
Ex. 9 towards the end of the exposition now appears in augmenta 
tion with itself thus 

Ex ' l3 'col8va 


ij J j j 

* ffmarc. 

,.f f f^ 


and still further augmented and broadened as 

Ex. 14. 


with an augmentation of a cross between Exx. 10 and n in 
counterpoint with it in the woodwind. The thematic material is 


immensely copious and inter-related, and the sweep of the music 
so integrates it that analysis never seems to account for all of it. 
The coda is based on the descending figure of Ex. 13 reiterated, 
while underneath Ex. I can be heard asserting itself. Ex. 7 has the 
last word and the movement ends noisily, which is unusual for 
Vaughan Williams. So are the size, variety and complexity, the 
extremes, the wealth and the spread, of London depicted in that 
capacious portmanteau form which for lack of a better term we 
call sonata form. The London County Council and London 
Transport have to deal in administration and practical operation 
with precisely this congeries of qualities. This sprawling metro 
polis can be appreciated as a unity in a symphony no less than in 
practical life. 


The slow movement (Lento) begins with chords for muted 
strings very much as the slow movement of the Fifth Symphony 
begins (cf. p. 49 below) upon which, as in the Fifth Symphony, 
a cor anglais solo is projected: 

Ex. 15. 

The solo is marked c misterioso' but it is the chords that make the 
mystery, for the first rising progression of triads suggests E major, 
the second A flat there is no key signature. At the end of the 
paragraph is a pause and the music starts again differently scored 
for harp and trombones! with E major. The strings in unison 
take up the tune (Ex. 15) in A flat minor. This is the first of two 
ideas that together constitute the A music of this large piece in 
ternary form. The other is a horn melody built up in stages over 
an accompaniment of reiterated strings. 

The middle or B section is composite. It begins with the viola 
tune which exfoliates into other melodic strands characterized by 
a triplet. 


Then a shake on the jingles and a chirp on the piccolo intro 
duce the street-cry of the lavender vendor on the clarinet. The 
cry is not complete, but this is the opening snatch of most of 
the variants found in Westminster and Kensington. The fact that 
it is not complete allows a certain amount of development and 
variation over an increase of animation in the orchestra harps, 
jingles, and drums being prominent contributors to the bustle, 
which is kept up long enough to make a climax. Then quiet is 
restored and Ex. 15 with its introductory triads returns. The 
recapitulation is abbreviated page 95 of the 1920 score has been 
excised, but there is an allusion to the triplets. The viola tune, 
Ex. 1 6, has the last word as a sort of aftethought in an indeter 
minate key, the last chords suggesting C and the tune itself veering 
to A minor. 

III. Nocturne 

Although most scherzos are quick and most nocturnes are slow, 
the Scherzo of this symphony is specifically described as a 
Nocturne an unusual conjunction of ideas, which does, how 
ever, carry out the composer's intention to depict London at 
night. Here again in this movement the material is copious; it is 
disposed in a rondo form, though the first section call it A 
behaves like any minuet-scherzo and is marked to be repeated. 
B starts off after the double bar like a bit of fugato. If this can be 
styled the first episode in B flat modal-minor as against the D 
minor of A, it is short, whether compared with A or with the 
second episode C, which is a representation of a fair-organ on 
Hampstead Heath in the vulgar key of C major. After the return 
of the rondo there is a coda in the same rhythm running the music 
down to a whisper. 

The scherzo-rondo music itself contains two subjects, i.e. 
groups of ideas. After a setting of a dance rhythm in 6/8 time the 
clarinets give out a snatch of a quasi-folk-dance tune: 



Three-bar phrase-lengths are common, alternating with other 
lengths to give a short-breathed effect. Ex. 17 in the Aeolian mode 
produces variants and developments. But with a change of key 
signature from one to five flats a second idea is promulgated, like 
unto the first in rhythm and phrase-length, 

Ex. 18. Bassoons & Cellos 


and another quite unlike: 

Troms and Tuba 

Ex. 19. 



The fugato has for subject 


Ex. 20. 

ffiffiffi ffiffiffi 

with a counter-subject of triplets. The rondo Ex. 17 et seq. is 
shortened to two-thirds of its original length. The street tune is 

Ex. 21. 

This bit of realism begins as an accordion or even possibly a mouth- 
organ solo, but it is inflated on repetition to the size of a fair-organ. 
Elgar, it maybe recalled, puts a similar episode into his 'Cockaigne* 
Overture. That two composers should regard street music as an 
essential ingredient in any picture of Edwardian London may 
suggest to the social historian that the Cockney finds an expression 
for his cheerful and endearing vulgarity not only in verbal wit 
but in a characteristic music. It may also suggest that the coming 


of the radio has largely eliminated the barrel organ and other 
pavement music from the London streets. Or it may be the police. 
But in any case the Londoner hears less of this kind of thing today 
than he did before Europe went to war. 

There is one phrase, not so far quoted, which occurs at the end 
of the rondo on each of its appearances: 


which now before the coda is uttered with great emphasis, as if to 
register sturdy independence, major against modal, duple against 
triple. In the coda, when it is quiet enough, the harp has a tiny 
solo suggesting the nocturnal striking of a distant church clock. 

IV. Finale 

The Finale has an Introduction and an Epilogue the Epilogue 
being part of the larger design of the symphony as a whole. 
Between these two sections the main body of the movement is in 
ternary form. The main theme is a march tune: 


^Yl , Violas and Clarinets 

*s. /' "^ T ^ '* v 

- "*~ J 

p pesante ' ^ 

p sostenuto 

This is in G minor for structural purposes, but as it stands it is in 
the Phrygian mode with its final on D. If the tense strains of the 
introductory bars bring us back to London's more serious and 
strenuous business, the march may suggest the more ceremonious 
side of London life. The tune is repeated with fuller scoring; in a 
third statement its constituent phrases are punctuated by two-bar 
interjections from the strings, in which off-the-beat chords still 
further exaggerate the heavy tread of the rhythm. As the cortege 
begins to pull up for a change into the middle section there is a 


curious anomaly of notation to be observed. What appears in the 
score is this: 


All conductors treat this as an interpolated bar of 3/2 time, yet 
there is the figure 3 to indicate a triplet in a bar of which the value 
is unchanged. Do all conductors make an elementary mistake of 
time-keeping or did the composer not write what he meant? 

The middle section starts off with the two-bar-cum-off-beat 
idea, now quickened to allegro; horns and lower strings prod the 
music with this goad 

Ex, 25. 


and so urge it to a new and emphatic short tune 

Ex. 26. Con fuoco > 

~ ~ 

which in turn does much work and even changes its shape to 



before the return of the march (Ex. 23). This is considerably 
elaborated and leads surprisingly into the first subject of the first 
movement Ex. 2. The reason for the excursion is immediately 
revealed: while a solo quartet of strings sustains a chord, the 
Westminster chimes strike as in the Introduction, though now it 
is the three-quarter hour, not the half-hour as then. 

The Epilogue reverts to the four-note motif (Ex. i) against 
much tremolando in thirds from strings and flute. The four-note 
motif develops here as in the beginning into its melodic phrase, 
but a late cut from V to W has removed its lengthy continuation 
and the symphony dies away from the top downwards till only 


a murmur is left in the bass to dissolve into silence. When last 
heard it was definitely at rest in G major. 

The Epilogue as a structural feature seems to be Vaughan 
Williams's invention. It differs from a coda in being the summary 
and conclusion not of one movement's argument but of all four. 
In Brahms's Third Symphony the motto F A F which had been 
prominent in the opening bars of the symphony is recalled in the 
last. But a motto, as used by Tchaikovsky for instance, to 
strengthen the unity of a symphony by an idea common to all 
movements is not on its last appearance an epilogue. Vaughan 
Williams plainly wanted something less mechanical to secure this 
unity. The epilogue is his solution and his valuable innovation. 

The dedication of this symphony to Butterworth's memory 
enshrines an important fact in its history, which appears in Vaughan 
Williams's own contribution to the memorial volume published 
after George Butterworth's death. He wrote: 

One of my most grateful memories of George is connected with my 
'London Symphony'; indeed I owe its whole idea to him. I remember 
very well how the idea originated. He had been sitting with us one 
evening talking, smoking, and playing . . . and at the end of the even 
ing, just as he was getting up to go, he said, in his characteristically 
abrupt way, 'You know, you ought to write a symphony/ From that 
moment the idea of a symphony & thing which I had always declared 
I would never attempt dominated my mind. 

And Vaughan Williams goes on to say that he showed him the 
sketches of it bit by bit as they were finished and received valuable 
criticism from him. Butterworth also helped to revise the score 
in readiness for the first performance and to make a short score of 
it. He contributed an article on it to the Royal College of Music 
Magazine (Easter Term, 1914) from which one quotation may be 

The slow movement is an idyll of grey skies and secluded by-ways 
an aspect of London quite as familiar as any other; the feeling of the 
music is remote and mystical, and its very characteristic beauty is not 
of a kind which it is possible to describe in words. 

Truly the symphony is about London. 


The Pastoral Symphony 

The third of Vaughan Williams's symphonies has, like its pre 
decessors, a title, fully acknowledged. It does for the countryside 
what the first did for the sea and the second for the city. But it is 
not very pictorial; it is, as the composer in his own note on it 
suggested, contemplative, and the mood is singularly sustained: 
'There are few fortissimos and few allegros. The only really quick 
passage is the Coda to the third movement, and that is all pianis 
simo/ None of the variety of the London Symphony here; in 
stead, a close homogeneity of material throughout, which arises 
from the germinal motif (a in Ex. i) which is heard, like the 
similar motif at the start of the London Symphony, at the 
beginning. There is a further superficial resemblance to the London 
Symphony in the oscillating quaver motion of the first bars, even 
before the germinal motif is heard on bass strings and, in triads, 
on the harp. But there similarities cease. 

This symphony, first performed at a Philharmonic concert on 
26 January 1922, under Adrian Boult, launches out in a new 
manner which not only shows the imprint of modal melody, de 
rived at one remove from folk-song, but triadic harmony, which 
from now on became a finger-print of the composer's style, and an 
essentially contrapuntal texture. It is a difficult symphony to per 
form because it is a ceaseless flow of melodies which interweave 
with each other and in the absence of dynamic climax give little 
indication which ones are prominent enough to constitute land 
marks in the unhurrying flux. The best performance I ever heard 
of it was at a Three Choirs Festival at Hereford when Sir George 
Dyson conducted it with a cool objectivity that allowed all these 
lines freedom to unfold in the mellow but not unduly resonant 
ambience of the cathedral. Any attempt at making it 'effective' is 
doomed to failure. No symphony is more dependent on clarity 
of texture in performance, for it is scored for large forces, three 
each of the wind except bassoons (2) and horns (4), harp, percus 
sion, strings, and a soprano voice (in the last movement). A special 


point in the orchestration is the insistence on the use of a natural 
trumpet in the ; se^ondinav^nxeELt, of which the purpose is to make 

the seventh of the scale flat enough and the ninth sharp enough. 
The purpose of these natural notes is no doubt to get purity of tone 
and an emphasis on the modal character of the theme. But as a 
matter of historic fact the melody for trumpet in the second move 
ment, for which these 'out-of-tune' partials are prescribed, is a 
direct transcript of real life. Lodged in the composer's mind was 
a recollection of camp life with the R.A.M.C. at Bordon in 
Hampshire where the bugler hit the seventh as a missed shot for 
the octave. The symphony was incubated during Vaughan 
Williams's military service, and in so far as any particular locality 
is depicted in the symphony it is northern France, where he went 
after being commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1917. 
The scenery in the Pastoral Symphony is not spectacular and 
northern France with its willows and streams is much like southern 

The first movement, marked 'molto moderate', is in a clear 
sonata form with key relationships that are only unusual in that 
the tonalities are modal rather than major or minor. The sym 
phony opens in the Dorian mode with D as the final and G as its 
dominant the polarity of G and D is very marked and even 
allows for debate which is the effective tonic, an issue not resolved 
by the consecutive fifths of Ex. i : 


nor by the ambiguity of the first melody, 


> - ' * \r 51 


P Vln. Solo 


Each of the main themes is in two parts. The balancing phrase 
of Ex. i is a violin solo, of which the first notes are shown in 
Ex. i but in a longer citation in Ex. 2. A cadence of decided 
character concludes this section and is itself important: 


Without any other bridge passage the second subject follows. This 
too is in two sections, one of which is in B minor and the other in 
A minor: 



p cantabile 

Both these are taken up in free imitation by other instruments 
and there are other tributary figures. A cadence in A major ends 
this section and the exposition. 

The swaying flutes and figure a introduce the development 
section in which the first event is an expansion of Ex. i by a solo 


Counterpoints appear sparsely there is a lot of white paper and 
many whole-bar rests in the score on horn, on flute, on oboe, 
and on harp (consecutive six-four chords, these) all treated and 
marked as solo. The triplets do, however, work up sufficient 
animation to thicken the texture and to bring up the dynamics to 
a mezzo-forte; and the cadence figure (Ex. 3) is employed to 
clinch something that can be called the climax of the movement. 


There is no complete recapitulation since Ex. i had already 
made another appearance at the beginning of the middle, develop 
ment section, but Ex. 3 is heard again on the horn and leads 
direct to the second subject. Ex. 4 is heard again still on the cor 
anglais and Ex. 5 on the cello, though reinforced now at the 
octave by the oboe. The coda, which is of fair proportions in the 
context of this unpadded movement, is really a development of 
Ex. i and its attendant material. The kst notes are a in the bass. 
The absence of mortar between the main stones of which this 
movement is built suggests the dry-walling of the Cotswolds. 


The composer's own laconic note says of the slow movement, 
marked lento moderate', 'This movement commences with the 
following theme on the horn: 


followed by this passage on the strings' 

fp Violins con sordini 

These two are adumbrations of the main subject and its extension, 
which are now given out 'poco tranquillo, tempo rubato', on a 
solo viola and solo flute in unison: 

Ex. 9. Via. and FI. 


Ex. 9 has a running accompaniment on the violins which leads 
on to the second subject, the fanfare with the flat seventh. In the 
notation of the score, where on its first appearance it is directed 


to be played on an E flat trumpet and on its next appearance on 
an F horn, this solo, over pianissimo strings, appears as 

Ex. 10. 

which is continued 'senza misura' to take in the ninth and tenth 
partials. Ex. 9 returns on viola and horn with derivations of Ex. 8 
in attendance. Finally the two subjects (Exx. 9 and 10) are com 
bined Ex. 9 on clarinet, Ex. 10 on F horn. 


The third movement is not called a scherzo it is marked 
'moderate pesante' but the composer describes it as 'of the nature 
of a dance movement'. It has the equivalent of a trio section, which 
is however repeated after the reprise of the first part, and there is 
an extensive coda founded on new material. This coda contains 
the only fast music of the symphony. 

The basic rhythm of the dance is shown in the opening bars 

Ex. 11. 


moho pesante 

which also establish G minor as the main tonality of the move 
ment. When this has been established, the time quickens and the 
shape of the rhythm is somewhat modified. The trumpet announces 
a short tune 

Ex. 12. 

* . Trumpet 


which quickly develops into a considerable climax with full brass 
and all. Another idea completely contrasted, consisting of a way 
ward arabesque of melody on the flute over tremolando strings 


and harp, makes the third constituent, anchored to the main 
rhythm of Ex. 11. 

Ex.13. F]utc 

This arabesque passes from flute to violin and is treated canoni- 
cally almost to the double bar, where a change of signature to one 
sharp takes us to the tonic major. 

The main tune of the Trio is, again, for the trumpet not a 
natural trumpet now but an ordinary trumpet in C. 

Ex. 14. 

Q a ,, T T PCT 

* *O" !]* _ 


4 Piu mosso' and 'poco animato' with a gradual thickening of the 
orchestration make this short Trio something of a hill in the 
gentle landscape. The dance figure (Ex. n) and the flute tune 
(Ex. 13) return, followed by the trumpet tune (Ex. 12), and are 
recapitulated, but in a reduced space. The Trio also recurs fully 
scored, and then comes the coda which is marked both 'presto* 
and 'pianissimo'. This coda is founded on two short themes, the 
one essentially a string figure and the other a wind melody. 

Ex. 15. Presto 


sempre pp e leggierissimo 

EX. 16. Flute 


These are quoted as they first appear but they are fluid and appear 
with different tails subsequently. Ex. 16 for instance loses its 
flowing arabesques when the oboe takes it up and transforms 
semiquavers into steady crotchets. Ex. 15 moves up and down in 
the strings in a kind of free fugato. Soon the texture fines out, the 


pace drops and what was pianissimo with two p's becomes a 
pianissimo with three. Harp and celesta dissipate the sound into 

IV. Finale 

The Finale calls for a soprano voice, though a clarinet is allowed 
to deputize for her wordless cantilena. There is no accompaniment 
save a drum-roll on A. The score says a tenor may sing this free 
rhapsody but in practice it never is so sung. The effect is to be 
that of a human figure as part of the landscape the voice conies 
out of the distance to the person who is contemplating the view. 
A strain of this unbarred melody may be quoted. 

Ex. 17. 

sensa misura FT""! r "i -^ I r"*1 

J * J J L & * 


'" i "_ 


It forms an introduction, provides the material for development 
in the middle and acts as an epilogue at the end. The main subject 
of the movement is a more formal melody harmonized in blocks 
and consecutive fifths. 

Ex. 18. Woodwind 


mp cantabile 

In the middle section this firm outline gives way to a haze of 
tremolando strings over which strands of rhapsody derived from 
Ex. 17 pass from oboe to solo violin. Ex. 18 alternates with it 
from horn to clarinet. The tempo, which has been moderato 
maestoso for the main body of the movement, reverts to lento 
for the vocal conclusion which is accompanied, not by a low note 
on the drum, but by a high note on the violins. 

The bones of the movements of this symphony as shown by 
the above dissection are skeletal enough and there is no complica 
tion of form, but the counterpoints that clothe the bones are 
rarely twice alike. They do not evolve as they go, like organic 
melodies, such as 'The Seeds of Love', which is a good example 


from English folk-song of a tune in which there is no repetition 
to determine its formal pattern. The persistence of a is a barrier to 
that sort of process. But the tunes themselves change intervals and 
time values as they pass from one instrument to another while 
retaining their basic shape and character. The result is fluidity 
without dissolution. As the play of light over a kndscape changes 
its aspect without altering its features, so in this symphony the 
thematic substance is variegated by this melodic fluidity. 

Symphony in F minor 

The fourth symphony to come from its composer's pen it 
was sketched during the winter of 1931-2 but not performed or 
published till 1935 has no programmatic basis, though it has a 
most pronounced emotional quality of its own. There is no specific 
subject like the sea, or London, or the country, which it can be 
said to be about. Its subject is contained within it and is of a 
logical nature. It is a disputation on two themes which run right 
through all four movements if they can be called themes: 

Ex. A 


which, as the composer is himself at pains to point out, is not the 
BACH theme, which in this key would be 




These are not so much themes, since until the fugal epilogue 
they never become 'subjects', as the germs of themes. They are 
structural elements steel gkders as it were in this modern edifice 
of glass and concrete. They are found at the heart (or the tail) of 


the actual subjects employed, but until A emerges openly in the 
final Fugue they remain the concealed power behind the formal 
rulers of this extremely powerful symphony. 

This power is startling. It is also something quite new in 
Vaughan Williams, who himself remarked of this score: 1 don't 
know whether I like it, but this is what I meant/ Vaughan 
Williams is quite capable of blunt utterance in music as in writing 
or in counsel, and he has said blunt things in music before which 
can be set against the more ruminative observations and specula 
tions which his admirers particularly cherish of which there is 
only one example in this symphony, the very brief episode lento 
non troppo' in the Finale at 13. But he has never before taken the 
bull by the horns with quite the violence of the opening bars: 

Ex. 1. Full Orchestra 
col 8va 

nor maintained so sustainedly a conflict of such intensity as lasts 
right through the symphony, which is heavily scored with little 
intermission from beginning to end. Always with Vaughan 
Williams there is something new in every work he writes, gener 
ally something disconcerting to his admirers who have just 
caught up to the work before last. The older he gets in years the 
more youthful becomes his stride. But Age has a surer confidence 
than Youth can have, and Vaughan Williams has found with 
advancing years the impetus that gathers power from its own 
functioning and fertility increased from its own flowering, though 
the growth is not so much in prodigality, large as his output is, 
as in saturation, like Beethoven's and Verdi's in their later work. 
This new note of sheer power violence almost is characteristic 


of an age of electricity, speed, and of Fascism. If this symphony 
has a message it is minatory in that it is a revelation of the 
essential nature^of violence. 

But its province is rather logic than ethics, in which respect it is 
nearer to Brahms than to Beethoven. As in Brahms, it follows the 
tendency to put the weightiest matter in the Finale. Some may 
say that Mozart began it in the 'Jupiter'; certainly Beethoven 
tilted the balance from first to last movement in the Choral 
Symphony; but Brahms less consciously but more consistently 
changed the centre of gravity of the symphony. In three, at any 
rate, of his four symphonies the finales deal with matters of 
greater substance than the first movements where traditionally 
they belong, and in doing so generate a greater degree of feeling. 
Consider in this respect the F major Symphony of Brahms, which 
professes to investigate the logical implications of a theme 
F A F, of an interval the major-minor third, of a key relation 
ship A flat to F (though one must in honesty admit that the 
psychological implications of the F A F motto 'frei aber froh' may 
colour the mood of the symphony). The opening movement, 
though strong, is lyrical enough, but the key colours get darker as 
the symphony proceeds F major, C major, C minor, and finally 
the thundery F minor and it ends in a storm of passion, which 
cannot be described as froh, whatever else it may be. The procedure 
is not quite the same in Vaughan Williams's F minor Symphony: 
the storm comes first in a key professing to be F minor, and 
certainly feeling like it though not looking much like it on paper, 
and the purely logical issues are relegated to a fugal epilogue. But 
the two symphonies have this passionate logic as well as the tonal 
centre of F in common, and a common drive towards the Finale. 
Brahms reserved the Finale of his C minor Symphony for his 
largest spread and the Finale of his E minor for his deepest pene 
tration; Sibelius follows no consistent plan of symphonic organiza 
tion, but one may observe as early as the Second Symphony that 
he attaches the Finale to the preceding movement, thereby acquir 
ing increased momentum for his Finale, and chooses for his 
dominating theme, as also in the equivalent movements of the 
Third and Fourth Symphonies, a broad tune that concentrates 


what has gone before into a kind of epitome of the whole. Per 
haps, however, this is not concentrating more into the Finale than 
was done by the romantic composers, Franck, Dvorak, Tchaikov 
sky, and Elgar, when they triumphantly bring their ships into port 
on a flood tide after their adventures in preceding movements. 
Vaughan Williams goes much farther than this and employs in 
this symphony, as in the London Symphony, an Epilogue, openly 
labelled as such; as a formal device comparable in importance and 
function to the symphony as a whole with Beethoven's use of the 
coda to summarize his single movements. In the Sixth and Ant 
arctic Symphonies the last movements are called Epilogues. 
Formally they are not therefore the same thing as the coda- 
epilogues of the London and F minor Symphonies, though the 
intention to draw the argument together into a summary is no 
doubt the same in them all. 

This is not to say that it has become a universal practice to 
substitute for the irresponsibility of classical finales something of 
greater weight, either psychological or musical, than is found in 
first movements Walton, for instance, had a job to find a proper 
conclusion to his symphony and put the chief matter of debate 
into his big opening movement. Nor must an epilogue in itself 
necessarily give ballast to a finale, though it will tend to do so 
the Epilogue to the London Symphony is short and quiet like 
night descending on the city nor will two composers use it 
alike or the same composer twice for the same purpose. Still, the 
fact remains that the Finale of a modern symphony is often more 
important than the equivalent of a classical or romantic sym 
phony, and that Vaughan Williams in particular works towards 
an epilogue in which to reach both a logical conclusion and an 
emotional peroration. In the F minor Symphony, as in the Piano 
Concerto, he has linked the Finale to the preceding movement. 
This is a confusing practice to the listener in his first hearings of 
the work, for the simple geographical reason that he cannot tell 
where he is. He hears something new and says 'Ah, an episode', 
but waits in vain for a recapitulation of familiar material. In this 
symphony the join between the third and fourth movements is 
obscured for him by the fact that the first emphatic theme of the 


last is a relative of something that has appeared in the second, 
but the difficulty is only momentary, since a landmark appears 
after four bars in the shape of an 'oompah' bass, Dr. Vaughan 
Williams's own description of its name 'in professional circles*. 

^ ' Allegro motto 

l ? JJ 



Such, a bass implies that the movement cannot wait, it must push 
on to its fugal epilogue without the full formal deployment of 
first and second subjects and thek leisurely development. As in the 
'Jupiter ', the final movement as a whole is a combination of sym 
phonic and fugal writing, but, unlike the 'Jupiter*, which may 
hasten but never hurries, this quick movement deals first with 
thematic versions of A and B in a purely symphonic if somewhat 
abbreviated manner, and then proceeds to combine them fugally. 
Until the themes have had fugal treatment the last word of 
logical argument has not been said. So A is taken as the subject of 
the Fugue and B is used in the counter-subject. It is noteworthy 
that A is as near to a horizontal straight line as a sequence of tones 
can be and that B is vertical. No wonder a structure thus braced 
in both directions is strong. 

The symphony, which is dedicated to Arnold Bax, was com 
pleted in 1934 and first performed on 10 April 1935 by the B.B.C. 
orchestra under Adrian Boult. It plays thirty-two minutes and is 
scored for a full orchestra (3 each of wind), the usual brass, per 
cussion without frills (4 instruments, 2 players), and no harps. 

I. Allegro 

The first movement plunges in medias res with Ex. i. (The com 
poser has said that he deliberately cribbed this opening from the 
Finale of Beethoven's Choral Symphony.) A is heard at the sixth 
bar and again in diminution in bars 8 and 9. B follows almost 
immediately (bars 14-16) on the brass and is similarly repeated 
in dimunition on strings and woodwind. This material is now 
repeated a fifth higher one hardly likes to say in the dominant, 


since no key centre has yet decisively established itself. The tonal 
outlook, however, changes at meno mosso, where time and key 
signature both change, the time to 3/2 and the key from a nominal 
F to a nominal C 1 like an orthodox second subject. To an accom 
paniment of repeated chords on wind so grouped in fours as 
to fall on different beats of the bar, a long cantilena is given out 
on the upper strings, who are instructed to draw long bows, 


f ? r ir r r r 

r I 1 f i ' ii QIJ 

f Appass. sost. *~~ 

The dynamics are still hell for leather, the sudden forte-piano and 
occasional pianissimo marks being but devices for imparting an 
extra kick to the crescendo which immediately follows. This 
cantilena leads into D major and to a therne, enunciated by horns 
and strings over a marching bass, which is but an elongation of A 
and is repeated against a counterpoint of minims striding down 
the strings. These brusque repetitions constitute a more forceful 
kind of development than the method employed by the previous 
generation of stating a subject and then beginning to pull open its 
petals without waiting for the development section proper. We 
have, however, something like a middle or development section 
at no. u, 'Tempo Primo', where a passage founded on the open 
ing subject Ex. i transforms itself during a quiet but exciting 
tremolando passage into 

Violins and Woodwind 

whose broken phrases are picked up by the clarion call of B lead 
ing into a recapitulation. It is, however, not a complete restate 
ment of the first subjects, and the cantilena (Ex. 3) appears very- 
soon in the bass. In the cantilena there has appeared a triplet figure. 

1 1 suppose the opening chord of the symphony should be regarded as dominant 
harmony in F, but its discord is never resolved; it merely leads on to another, and 
when the moment of decision arrives the fundamental bass moving upward over 
shoots its tonic and lands on F sharp ! 



The heavy artillery (double-bassoon, double-bass, third trombone, 
and tuba) now seize upon this, quietly at first, 


p croc. 

and with it detonate the final explosion. Thereafter the movement I 
subsides into its first real calm. The coda is a slow and soft para- I 
phrase of Exx. i and 3 in D flat, in which key the movement ends. I 

II. Andante Moderate 

The text of the slow movement is B, enunciated by trumpets 
and accompanied by trombones, and again immediately repeated 
by woodwind: 


Trumpet (con sord.) 

But the matter is not at once pursued. Instead, one of Vaughan 
Williams's characteristic marching basses starts up quite definitely 
in F minor, this and over it a theme is played by the first violins 
which is not so F-minorly. 


p cantabile 

The oboe next traces a similar theme in A major against a counter 
point of strings and clarinet generally in three parts which sound 
dissonant but are not really in different keys. Here is a specimen: 



A second episode of similar character follows, still over the march 
ing bass. The texture is now expanded to full orchestra without 
the heavy brass, which is reserved for projecting B (Ex. 6) once 
more to the fore through the swaying chromatic figure taken 
from Ex. 8 which holds the field at this point. The drum puts an 
end to all this and the flute is heard tranquilly playing what 
Dr. Vaughan Williams describes in his own programme-note 
as a cadence figure to end the first half of the music: 

p cantabile 

All the material of this movement is closely related, through its 
relationship to A and B; the quavers of Ex. 9, for instance, relate 
it to the oboe tune. Similarly all over the orchestra one solo 
instrument after another takes up the same kind of arabesque, 
until the counterpoint begins to glow, over a bass that pursues 
its steady course. Dr. Vaughan Williams's note speaks of this as 
another episode. The drums wind up the debate between these 
strands of a melody which has curled itself into frequent triplets, 
and bring back the first theme, Ex. 7, over the same old pro 
nounced bass for a shortened recapitulation. The cadence figure 
provides the coda. It unrolls itself over an attenuating accompani 
ment and itself begins to dissolve into detached phrases as the 
rhythm relaxes into a brief unmeasured cadenza. One element, 
however, holds fast in this dissolving picture: A is played quietly 
by the trombones in solemn triads. 

III. Scherzo (Allegro molto) 

This Scherzo seems in performance to be fleeter of foot than is 
usual with Vaughan Williams and to have more than a little of 
Hoist in it. Its energy is at once apparent in the chief theme an 
nounced at the outset by the bassoons (reinforced with bass 
clarinets, and strings according to pitch): 

Ex, 10. 


Upward leaping arpeggios are Strauss's natural way of expressing 
virile drive and physical exuberance the hero's theme in Helden- 
leben, for instance, and (with a difference) Don Juan's main motif. 
But there is none of Strauss's succulence here the key is a rather 
acrid D minor and the curt interjection of A on trumpets and 
trombones, echoed as usual in diminution by woodwind, banishes 
all idea of anything like Teutonic expansiveness. In fact it is this 
blunt statement and even blunter absence of connecting links or 
development between the various statements, which are hurled 
one after the other without pause for elaboration, that reminds 
one of Hoist's clear-cut and downright methods. Already, then, 
at the end of six bars, we have heard both B and A, for the main 
theme is but an expanded version of B. The angularities of (a) in 
the above Ex. 10 propel the movement until a double bar, where 
the signature changes to two sharps and a new, even more terse 
and electrical, rhythm is let loose by the strings: 

Ex. 11. 

/\ ,, Violins 

over which solo instruments the light-weight flute, the heavy 
weight trombone, the more complacent clarinet and horns 
quietly but insistently outline a new theme: 

Ex, 12. 

A ti 

1* iM ff iff f iff f f. 

which is continued in 

And so we hurtle along, heedless of warnings by A's reappearance 
on the brass (and its faithful attendant echo on the woodwind) 
that the first subject has to be repeated before the second can be 
fully stated, which of course is not the strict order of repetitions 
for scherzos. However, both sections are repeated, Exx. 12 and 13 


now being welded into one complete tune given out by all the 
treble instruments of the orchestra, piccolo included: 

which, when you come to look at it, is a finely organized, though 
not obviously symmetrical, rhythmic and melodic pattern. 
The trio of the Scherzo is a fugato on 

Ex. 15. 


Again note the wide range of the subject, which is announced 
pesante by the heavy wind but is soon careering aloft among the 
ledger lines where the piccolo and higher positions of the violin 
have their abode. This trio is marked 'quasi meno mosso', but it 
does not seem to last very long, and the repetition of the Scherzo 
is soon upon us, which works up to an explosion, followed, as 
explosions usually are, by a cloud of smoke which here takes the 
forms of trills on squealing flutes and oboes, hissing violins, and 
the sizzling triangle. There is a sudden silence broken only by the 
emergence of a pedal point. This pedal, however, is not a fixed 
point but a kind of revolving cam, 

Ex. 16. 

Timpani and lower strings < 

an inverted modification of the old accompanying figure (Ex. n) 
above, as it happens. The projecting A emphasizes the pull of the 
G $ and so imparts a greater momentum to the music as it heads 
towards the Finale without a break. A similar device is employed 
by Sibelius in the Finale of his Second Symphony, though his 
cam revolves much more slowly (a final crotchet protruding once 
in a bar of 3/2 time). Over this pedal solo instruments play, very 



quietly, versions of B. The last eight bars are a crescendo leading 
with a rush into 

IV. Finale con Epilogo Fugato (Allegro molto) 
The first theme is a reincarnation of the cadence figure from 
the second movement (Ex. 9), according to Dr. Vaughan 
Williams's own analysis 

Ex. 17. 


which is completed by the 'oompah' bass (Ex. 2) and this sus 
tained melody for wind 

Ex. 17 is emphatically repeated and extended by trumpet and 
trombone before the second subject proper is reached. This is a 
swaggering, aggressive tune } such as some simple-hearted pirate 
might hiss between his teeth: 

p marcato 

which is picked up in imitation all over the orchestra and finally 
transforms itself into a more respectable paean on the brass, 
marked, however, 'scherzando': 

J J J 

' f 



r r r f r 

r r i 
a j j. 

J. J 

P ! F f 

The middle section of the movement is itself in three sections, of 
which the first develops this and 'oompah', the second has an 


episode for strings which is the only characteristically ruminative 
passage in the symphony except the coda of the first movement, 
with which it has affinities, and the third is a passage over a pedal 
sustained by drum and cellos and basses. This last is also a quiet 
paragraph, but it grows into a fortissimo as it enters the recapitula 
tion, which is condensed but is representative of all the material 

Dr. Vaughan Williams's own description of the epilogue is as 

The subject of the fugal epilogue is A played first on the trombones 
and then heard both in its original form and inverted, combined with 
the other subjects of the finale. The work ends with a reference to the 
opening bars of the first movement. 

Nothing need be added to this statement of the facts beyond 
observing that these cross-references are no mere mechanical con 
trivances for unity; nor are they quite on all fours with the cyclic 
themes of Franck and Tchaikovsky: they are rather an explicit 
assertion of the inner connexion which subsists between all the 
thematic material of the symphony. This is not a symphony of 
four independent movements that happen to go well together but 
an organic growth from certain germinal elements, which are not 
to be called themes or subjects but are in fact something more 
rudimentary and fundamental. A and B are not stated as texts of a 
sermon, though the argument expands and ranges outwards from 
them. They are the roots from which the themes themselves grow, 
and the symphony thus has an organic unity, a cohesion rare in 
any symphony. The flood of its discharge seems to suggest that it 
remained growing and thrusting in its creator's mind until he 
could contain it no longer and that whatever then poured out 
could not be other than relevant and indeed related to the one all- 
absorbing matter in hand. One may imagine it as the antithetical 
method to Schubert's, whose fertility allowed one thing to follow 
another relevantly but discursively. Here the musical mind 
dammed up its own inspiration until the compression was such 
that the parts were welded into one all-embracing argument such 
that even the episodes are not episodical. 


Symphony in D 

When Vaughan Williams's Fifth Symphony was produced for 
the first time at a Promenade Concert during the war, which it 
almost seemed that he had foretold in his Fourth Symphony, the 
audience fell under its spell. Its serene, almost religious character 
seemed to be alien to the mixed programme and casual audience 
of a Prom, yet there was no doubt that its greatness and its 
peculiar spiritual quality were at once recognized. Comment at a 
more superficial level was that the composer had gone back to 
his earlier style and that the violence of the previous symphony 
had been exorcized. Opinion came to rest upon the view that it 
was the summary of a life's work; that if nothing else of his sur 
vived, future generations would get a very good idea of Vaughan 
Williams's style and message from this symphony alone. He was 
seventy-five at the time and this seemed to be the crown of his 
life-work. But since then he has produced two more symphonies 
and the opera on The Pilgrim's Progress, from which this Fifth 
Symphony took its rise. 

The Pilgrim's Progress has been an abiding interest and it is not 
difficult to see why Bunyan's mixture of direct English, the latent 
poetry in the allegory, and the symbolism of the names in the 
book appeal to Vaughan Williams, who often uses a correspond 
ing musical idiom compounded of plain speech and its implicit 
poetry. The Tallis Fantasia, with which this symphony has obvious 
thematic and textural affinities, springs from a theme which the 
composer had associated with Bunyan in incidental music to a 
pky about him. Then too there is the Pastoral Episode of 1922, 
The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, where fragments of dia 
tonic tune and triadic harmony, though common to much of 
Vaughan Williams's music, belong to the same stock of ideas. 
The opera, or as he prefers to call it the morality of 1951, was the 
culmination of this life-long preoccupation. 

But if these elements from The Pilgrim's Progress are the deep 
roots from which the Fifth Symphony grew, they are small ele 
ments indeed compared to the greatness of the full revelation in 


the symphony. In the Tallis Fantasia there is the meditation and 
in the Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains there is the vision; in 
the symphony we have an answer to life's puzzle and the remedy 
for its ills; here is the mystical knowledge (i.e. the direct appre 
hension of ultimate reality without the mediation of sense percep 
tion and ratiocination) that comes by the penetration of the 
prophetic mind. Bunyan has come in for heavy criticism (e.g. 
from Robert Bridges), and his allegory is an oversimplification 
by the limited faith of Calvinism, yet it is wisdom from the 
mouth of a babe. Blake, to whom Vaughan Williams turned in 
Job, wrote Prophetic Books and made apocalyptic drawings. 
'AnoKdhvyiz, Apocalypse (revelation again) has been another of 
Vaughan Williams's constant preoccupations which came to 
specific issue in Sancta Civitas. The Fifth Symphony is apocalyptic 
in the true sense of the word, though not in the slightly narrower 
sense in which it is used for blinding revelation such as is found in 
the language of St. John the Divine or in the drawings of William 
Blake. It all comes down to the word 'prophetic'. The prophet is 
one who reveals the truth (apocalypse). If he foretells the future it 
is only because he is more fully aware than his fellows of the true 
character of the world and nature, man and deity. The prophet is 
not a fortune teller attempting to descry the future course of 
events, he is a man whose knowledge of past and present is 
sufficiently penetrating to be equally at home with the future 
because past, present and future are all one. Vaughan Williams'* 
music has such prophetic powers. The F minor Symphony written 
at the height of Fascist domination of European thought, when 
the reign of naked force was established, was prophetic of the 
violence that was to come, because it understood the nature of an 
irresponsible and violent society. The Sixth Symphony describes 
the nature of war as such, as it was in 1940 to 1944, and as it will 
leave the world if mankind fails to exorcize it. The Fifth Sym 
phony written amid the noise of wars describes the nature of 
peace. Its peace is that which no pen can describe but which in 
default of better definition is called the peace that passeth under 
standing. It is the most successful attempt since Beethoven to use 
music as a direct penetration of the mystery of life. It is perhaps a 


more successful attempt than Beethoven's to deal with meta 
physical issues in the language of sound. 

To encompass these great issues the composer demands com 
paratively small forces: there are only two horns (which may how 
ever be doubled), two trumpets, no harp or other percussion than 
timpani, no tuba, and instead of a second oboe there is a cor anglais. 

I. Preludio 

The first movement is called Preludio and is cast in an elaborate 
ternary form with coda. At least that seems to be the best way of 
regarding it, but it could be described as an exposition of two big 
groups of themes succeeded without development by a condensed 
recapitulation. The key is not established but arrived at by the 
gravitational pull of the parts against each other. Thus a pedal 
point C is very pervasive until the change to E major, when some 
thing like a second subject takes the field. Against this C the horn- 
call (Ex. i), motto of the movement, suggests D and the resultant 
of this tug-of-war is a sort of A minor as declared by the bass (see 
Ex. 7) with the undertow of C persisting, so much so that the signa 
ture is changed and the one sharp (of a symphony in D!) is can 
celled. Then follows a section in C minor and a middle section of 
various flat keys. The conclusion of the movement bears a signature 
of two flats but ends with the D major horn-call pulling against 
the pedal C. No wonder the composer was doubtful of the key! 

The horn-call 



due perhaps to the dedication to Sibelius, with whose Fifth Sym 
phony this opening may be compared, establishes not only the 
feeling of D major against the pedal C but the basic rhythm of 
the movement, which is only absent during the middle section. 
Another germinal motif follows at once upon this horn-call (still 
over pedal C) : 



These two germs at once begin to grow after the manner of 
Sibelius: thus the horn-call: 



P * 

and thus the string tune: 

which picks up the motto rhythm and which leads to a long 
cantilena for the violins. 
Compare this with the opening of Sibelius's Fifth Symphony: 


which sprouts into 

Ex. 6. 

with still more proliferating tendrils of consecutive semiquaver 
thirds. So it is with Vaughan Williams in this Preludio, in which a 
related bass (i.e. related to Ex. 4) supplies a more constant element: 

Ex. 7. 


The cantilena tune (Ex. 4) develops and becomes more intense, 
as the key drops to C minor and the horns reiterate their rhythmic 
figure (Ex. i) beneath it, 


Violins (octavcjhigher) 



Then comes a wonderful change to E major and E minor and 
something like a second subject, in which however the horn 
rhythm remains influential: 

Upper \Yoodwind 

Thus the violin tune breaks out of the honi rhythm on a wider 
curve, though the bass and middle parts continue to reaffirm it, 
and at one point in its course there is heard for the first time a hint 
of the 'Alleluia' theme which is to dominate the last movement. 

The middle section is marked allegro and consists of continuous 
quaver movement in the strings based on this sort of tune, which 
has obvious affinities with Exx. 4, 7, and 9. 

Ex. 10. 

Over this something more sinister than anything so far heard 
suggests opposition to what has hitherto been from the thematic 
point of view a fairly homogeneous movement, a motif character 
ized by a baleful flattened second, 

which is taken up by one wind instrument after another with in 
creasing insistence. The keys rush past, the runs adopt tremolando 
motion, the volume of tone mounts to a fortissimo. After the 
crisis the central climax of the movement is reached, a recapitula 
tion of the first part follows, in which the ambiguous D major of 
the horn-call is reasserted against all this protestation of a mixo- 
lydian kind of D minor. When all the material implied in Exx. i, 
2, 3, 4, and 5 has been quite briefly restated, the brass chorus 


pronounces a new summary marked 'tutta forza* of all that the 
strings have been saying: 


j fti 

PJ-J. j j| j . 



^H" y 

3 1 

f - -- 



1 'a .1 . . L 


- r 

This is the final climax and after an allusion to the chief theme of 
the middle section (Ex. n), the D major horn-call (Ex. i) has 
the last word without however succeeding in pulling the tonality 
on to an unimpeachable D major, for there is a prominent F 
natural in the bass and the pedal C persists. 

II. Scherzo 

In the Scherzo the principle of organic thematic growth can 
again be seen at work, and the sequence of key signatures runs 
roughly parallel with that in the first movement as can be seen at 
a glance: 

. Q u 


But the conflict of good and evil, no more than hinted in the 
Preludio, is joined in the running fight of this quick movement. 
' If one did not know the origin of much of this symphony in The 
Pilgrims Progress one would still be driven to the use of such 
descriptive language, for the music tells its own tale. Bunyan's 
'hobgoblin and foul fiend' are plainly on the prowl in Ex. 15. The 
strings are muted until the change to two-four time near the end. 
In this section, part trio part coda, duple and triple time jostle 
each other in different parts and the effect is something like that 
of stretto in a fugue. This is about as much as can be said of the 
form of the movement in which Scherzo is an apt description of 
its character but not of its structure. 



The transformation of themes by growth is put into operation 
right from the start, where the lower strings enunciate the germ: 

Ex. 13. 


Lower Strings (coa sord.) 


Its first growth is, when the violins take it up, as they do at once, 
to incorporate a G as a high point; and then as it grows, or rather 
spreads like a chord, it takes in a C until a tuneful phrase is evolved: 

p cantabile 

r r i 

of which the constituents show irregular lengths of two, three, and 
four bars. This is succeeded by a new idea even before the point 
is reached at which, if this was a movement in normal minuet 
form, the second section (the B music as it would be called in 
dance notation) begins and where a change is made to C minor 

Ex. 15. Ob. and Cor ang. 


which recalls passages in Job and the Fourth Symphony, though 
the resemblance is one of tenour and meaning rather than an exact 
correspondence of contour and rhythm. At any rate the hobgoblin 
has now declared himself and his rhythm persists, reinforced by 
the drum, and fig. a of Ex. 15 becomes pervasive in the strings. 
The trombones take up the challenge with 

Ex. 16. 

which is clearly a development of Ex. 13. Horns and woodwind 
in another key come up in support with 

Ex. 17. 


LJ J I. 


and the cellos with the powerful aid of trombones in harmony 
carry the day, first of all in bright major harmony proclaiming 
the triumph of Good Deeds and then more soberly in modal 

Ex. 18. 

After a final statement of this theme (Ex. 18) by brass alone there 
is a brief sketchy and ghostly recapitulation of the material that 
belongs to Ex. 14. Now comes the coda-trio in two-four time in 
which two versions of a descending form of Ex. 18 are bandied 

Ex. 19. , 

Ex. 20. 



The coda proper returns to three-time and dies away in a wisp of 
Ex. 13. 

ITT. Romanza 

This third movement, the heart of the symphony, is ill named; 
its inspiration is in The Pilgrim's Progress and the manuscript score 
bears a motto that has not been reproduced in the printed full- 
score: 'Upon that place there stood a cross and a little below a 
sepulchre. . . . Then he said "He hath given me rest by his sorrow 
and life by his death"/ There is therefore and indeed nothing 
romantic in any of the normal connotations of that pliable word 
about this movement; it is a meditation not easily analysable into 
any of the accepted forms, unless it be what the Germans call 
Bogen, or bow form and that is perhaps the sense in which the 
term is applicable. It contains premonitions of the 'Alleluia' motif, 
probably derived in the last resort from the great Easter chorale 
'Lasst uns erfreuen', which dominates the finale. 

The movement opens on a chord of C major followed by a 
chord of A major. These two chords are also the first and last 


chords of the movement. The second theme of the first subject 
is in the Aeolian mode, and this neutrally toned tonality is the pre 
dominant tonality of the movement, a tierce de Picardie sufficing 
to bring about the conclusion in A. The form of the movement 
consists of an elaborate exposition in which four chief strains may 
be isolated, an 'animato' middle section of no great length and a 
recapitulation of the first section with its material rearranged in 
reverse order. 
The five chief constituents of the exposition are: 

(a) a progression of triads 

Ex. 21. 

Sirs, (con sorA)^, 
Lento J " 

(b) a tune on the cor anglais put over progression (a) 



These two elements occur in Scene 2 of Act I of The Pilgrims 

(c) a contrapuntal web in eight parts (including octave doub 
lings) upon a long melody that begins 

Ex. 23. * 

VJns. H 

f\ Vlns UJl IHJuiinu pin moviineiiLo ^^* 

and continues in its second strain 

Ex. 24. ^^ 

J ^ If I T \ 

r if r if f f if 

' ' ' ' ' ' ' 

(d) another chordal progression doubtfully rekted to (a) 




and (e) by way of codetta an ornamented version of Ex. 24 taken 
up by woodwind in imitation. 

Ex. 26. 

The string theme (Exx. 23 and 24) is marked to move a little 
more quickly than the opening, tin pochino pii>i movimento. When 
the exposition is completed it is immediately repeated in a counter- 
statement beginning at a different pitch. The codetta is now longer 
and more elaborated with triplets. The adjacent 'animato' section 
to which it leads is the apex of the bow, if bows can be said to 
have apexes. Its agitation has a more specifically dramatic purpose 
than the merely formal acceleration of the middle section of an 
aria: in the scene of The Pilgrims Progress, of which this is a sym 
phonic transcript, Pilgrim's cries for salvation at the foot of the 
Cross are set in a musical context derived from this passage in the 
symphony or vice versa according to the historical order in 
which the composer first conceived and subsequently worked out 
the basic ideas. Oboe and cor anglais have an anguished cry, 
which is thematically a development of Ex. 24, 


(a) and (&), Exx. 21 and 22, are heard amid the agitation which 
reaches a climax in the repetition of the 'Save me* passage for 
brass alone. Ex. 26 (or something like it) is also heard in a clamor 
ous version all over the orchestra. But the mood passes; calm is 
regained; Ex. 24 on the cellos proves that the terror is past; the 
whole of the string passage 'pochino piu movimento 5 is recapitu 
lated. On this return journey through the thematic material the 
oboe tune (Ex. 26) is transferred to a solo violin ; the strings 
murmur the gist of Exx. 22 and 21; the viola has a falling 
phrase suggestive of 'Alleluia', as the movement sinks to its 
quiet close. 


IV. Passacaglia 

The Passacaglia is not strictly worked. The theme is varied in 
figuration, there are episodes, and there is a counter-theme (whose 
relation to the theme in the bass is like that of the two constituents, 
treble and bass, of the Prometheus theme in the Finale of the 
Eroica Symphony). Of this counter-theme 



one phrase must be intended as an allusion it is hardly a quota 
tion to the Alleluia of 'Lasst uns erfreuen', of which the portions 
relevant to the thematic material of this movement may be 
quoted for comparison: 

The theme, as is customary in a passacaglia, is announced in the 
bass by the cellos: 

Ex - 30 - Modern 

p cantabik 

It is a seven-bar phrase and it is ten times repeated, with a few 
curtailments and extensions on some of its appearances, before its 
primacy is seriously challenged. 

The opening is contrapuntal; every line is firmly diatonic and 
seemingly related to every other. The feeling and the method are 
much like those of the last number of Flos Campi, and the re 
semblance to the techniques employed in that work is further 
emphasized by the lines breaking soon into quaver movement 
and subsequently into streams of chords. After the tenth repeti 
tion of the theme with its superincumbent variations the time 
changes from moderate to allegro and the passacaglia theme 
Ex. 30 temporarily disappears from the scene, which is dominated 


by the counter-tune Ex. 28 boldly stated by trombones and tuba 
but quickly taken up by the full orchestra in imitation at various 
distances. This episode makes way for a scherzando variation of 
the theme Ex. 30 in C major 

Ex - 31 - Woodwind _ _ 

which in turn is succeeded by a resumption in D major of the 
tune Ex. 28 with the bass Ex. 30 beneath it, a rather stiff variation. 
These three variations thus make a small self-contained tripartite 
episode between the first ten statements of the theme and a new 
series of statements of it in a different rhythm. This new section 
goes to D minor and changes its time signature from three to 
four crotchets in a bar; Ex. 30 now appears on clarinet, imitated 
at four bars' distance by flute and soon to be taken up in new 
forms containing triplets all over the orchestra. 

This section has some resemblance to a development in its 
elaborate contrapuntal working up to a climax which leads un 
expectedly into a reference back to the Prelude with its horn-call 
(Ex. i), its extended horn-call rhythm (Ex. 3) and its tune (Ex. 2). 
Thus the thematic relationship which haunts the mind subcon 
sciously throughout the symphony is made explicit. Exx. 28 
and 30 have the last word but they have changed their positions: 
the upward thrust of the counter-theme Ex. 28 is from below and 
the arching tune Ex. 30 spans the heights in the flutes till a complex 
web of strings in ten parts quietly has the last word, which is 
'Alleluia' in one or other of the guises it has taken to itself from 
the two tunes, passacaglia (Ex. 30) and counter-theme (Ex. 28). 
As in almost all of Vaughan WilHams's works the end is pianis 
simo. The effect is like a benediction. 

Symphony in E minor 

It is impossible to hear this symphony without referring it to a 
programme. No need to search (what Ernest Walker used to 
call 'brain cudgelling'); the implicit programme declares itself to 


anyone who lived through the period during which the composer 
was writing it. In a century's time, when the world may be a 
better place, the listener may need a programme-note such as this 
to give him the key to its interpretation. But to anyone who is 
not deaf or doctrinaire this symphony spells a word of three 
letters WAR. 

It is of course a species of treason for the writer of analytical 
notes to interpret in terms of a programme any music that calls 
itself symphony and not symphonic poem or sinfonia. It can 
freely be conceded that more nonsense can be talked in such 
interpretations than in any other kind of writing about music. 
Music, we are told, does not need the elucidation of literary con 
cepts since it is self-sufficient and self-intelligible. No matter; 
composers do not live in ivory towers, nor are they spiders 
spinning silk threads out of their own guts. They live in the world 
and their minds are nourished by events in the world, and their 
emotions are stirred as other men's are. The trumpets and drums, 
which by long association and by the natural symbolism of their 
fierce sounds suggest war, are in the second movement as crude 
a hint of what the symphony is about as are the Westminster 
chimes in the London Symphony. More than that however, the 
emotions of the whole are clearly recognizable as that of the 
Second German War, and the several movements reflect its 
various aspects, as at the risk of being thought literal-minded 
I shall propound. 

I received a sharp reproof from the composer when I allowed to 
appear in The Times a review of the gramophone records of his 
'War Symphony*. He conceded that any writer was at liberty to 
make such an attribution or to interpret the music in relation to 
events, but he refused to lend countenance to the idea that he him 
self had given, or would give, the smallest warrant for such a 
name or for that interpretation. Nevertheless his general aesthetic 
allows such an interpretation of a symphony to which he has not 
attached a name or label. He stated his views about the inter 
relationship of music and life in the famous article which he wrote 
for The R.C.M. Magazine in 1912: his advice to the composer was 
to 'make his art an expression of the whole life of the community'. 


His own approach in music to situations of real life is visionary 
rather than philosophical on the one hand or merely descriptive 
on the other. The London Symphony contains its few touches of 
realism and is impressionistic in so far as it is based on a visual 
interpretation of a great city. The Pastoral Symphony uses less 
realism and is more visionary than visual it is the essence of the 
country, not its appearance or even its feelings, that is presented. 
The choice of the metaphysical poets, Whitman, and other apo 
calyptic words in vocal works shows the same method of going 
to the heart of the matter by direct vision. Ultimately the method 
is mystical, that of direct intuition and immediate perception. 
What is perceived is the nature of things. All Vaughan Williams's 
symphonies have been such penetrations by insight of the sea, 
the city, the country, of European anarchy, of peace, and now of 

Not a word of all this however in the programme-note which 
the composer himself wrote for the first performance at the Royal 
Philharmonic Society's concert on 21 April 1948. He goes out of 
his way to be detached, even flippant; he parodies the jargon of us 
poor scribes who write analytical programme-notes for concert- 
goers, and spreads his hands in a kind of helpless resignation at 
the curious goings-on of his themes which land the unfortunate 
composer into all sorts of predicaments. I must not infringe the 
composer's copyright by printing it as it stands but I shall both 
crib and quote from it. 

The symphony is dedicated to his friend Michael Mullinar and 
is scored for a very large orchestra. Triple woodwind, three 
trumpets with a desirable fourth in some passages, a tenor saxo 
phone, three trombones and tuba, the usual four horns, harp 
(doubled if possible) and percussion to keep three players besides 
the timpanist employed are prescribed. 

The first movement, Allegro, is in essence a sonata movement 
in which two ideas are juxtaposed. The contrast between them is 
stronger than that between most first and second subjects, their 
relationship is irreconcilable and the development section is not 


therefore spent in working them together or showing their ultim 
ate kinship in preparation for the resolution of the contrast, which 
in a Beethovenian movement is effected in recapitulation and 
sealed in a coda. This development section does not occur in the 
middle of the movement but between the first and second subjects 
in the exposition. Its function is to show an idea actually in process 
of creating its opposite. Schweitzer in describing a Bach concerto 
declared that in it e we really see before us what the philosophy of 
all ages conceives as the fundamental mystery of things that self- 
unfolding of the idea in which it creates its own opposite in order 
to overcome it, creates another, which again it overcomes and so 
on until it finally returns to itself, having meanwhile traversed the 
whole of existence'. 'Opposite' and 'overcome' seem too strong 
terms to apply to the ritornello of a concerto which first sprouts a 
derivative of itself and then reabsorbs it, but the comparison is 
applicable to musical movements in which one theme does gener 
ate its successor and antithesis. The idea of creating and overcom 
ing opposites is no doubt one way, and a profound way, of 
reading the riddle of the universe, and it has also been applied in 
the narrower sphere of political history to war and peace. This 
philosophy of history argues that in times of peace conditions 
arise which lead inevitably to war and that war makes peace 
necessary and so on in an inevitable sequence. However one may 
regard this cycle, it is certainly clear that the evil state of war 
creates its own virtues, which may be regarded as 'opposites' 
that overcome the parent evil. That is the situation presented 
by Vaughan Williams in the first movement of his E minor 

It begins in a flurry of confused keys 'The key of E minor is 
at once established', says the composer, 'through that of F minor' 
with tearing semiquavers plunging up and down the scale: 

This is the turbulence of something being let loose, a trouble un 
specified and unpredictable but not difficult to guess in general 


terms. The threat is made more insistent by a chordal passage for 
brass (with flute and clarinet) : 


There is positive evil added in a section employing what the com 
poser himself has called (in connexion with his F minor Sym 
phony) an 'oompah' bass with the off-beats reinforced with the 
dry rattle of the side-drums. (This 'oompah' is in 12/8 and there 
fore hop-skips instead of waddling as in the F minor symphony.) 
The opposing principle, when it comes, is a tune in B minor: 


WW. p cantabile 

of which the D in the last bar of the quotation is inflected altern 
ately sharp and natural. This, it might be thought, would give it 
an ambiguity ill-suited to the standard-bearer of confidence, 
which is its function as second subject of the movement. In fact, 
however, the alternating statement with its accompanying har 
mony is a form of asseveration. The phrase is one of Vaughan 
Williams's 'finger-prints' and with its alternation of major and 
minor sets the mind running back towards the Tallis Fantasia. 
The tune is separated from its repetition on the brass by a 
section in which 12/8 and 4/4 time contend for supremacy. If 
the movement was built on the architectural lines of sonata form 
its geographical position would be somewhat confused, but the 
movement is more dramatic than formal and its logic is of the 
emotions. The emotional significance of Ex. 3 is made clear 
beyond all debate in the recapitulation where it appears in E 
major accompanied by harps and trombones, a rare combination 
of instrumental tone-colour that mixes strength and radiance. This 
is the assurance of victory, but it is the only piece of encouraging 
music in the symphony, just as the 'spirit of the finest hour', 


to which in some way it corresponds, was the only redeeming 
feature of the whole ghastly, ruinous abomination of the 'un 
necessary war'. But between the first subject (Exx. I and 2) and 
this second subject (Ex. 3) several things happen. The first is 
'oompah' ('poco animato' in 12/8 time) over which a disjointed 
tune appears in the trumpets doubled by woodwind 4/4 against 
12/8 is part of the dislocation. 

This tune is varied and extended till it transforms itself into 

with all the gaps filled and the jolts smoothed out. The feature of 
this section is the juxtaposition of 12/8 and 4/4 time. Then the 
second subject proper, Ex. 3, follows and between its two state 
ments, as already related, a development of Ex. 5 occurs. I have 
described this music founded on Ex. 5 and the mixed rhythms as the 
true development section, for not only is the thematic material 
transformed in the way indicated but its unrest is psychologically 
the antecedent and generator of the motive of confidence, which 
may be compared to Mi. Churchill's speeches. In his own note the 
composer shows himself unusually punctilious about conventional 
observances. With a dig at the 'professional Annotator* and his 
'reprise in due course' he remarks that though the reprise is 
shortened to the dimensions of a hint it is there right enough just 
to show that this is a symphony, not a symphonic poem'. Further, 
*to make an end and just to show that after all the movement is in 
E minor, there is an enlargement of the opening bar' i.e. Ex. i 
in augmentation. 


In the second movement, which is not the slow movement of 
the symphony, the military character of the symphony emerges 


unambiguously in the damnable iteration of a figure for trumpets 
and drums, which appears as early as the second bar: 


The true slow movement of the symphony is the wintry Epilogue, 
although, like the second movement, it is marked 'moderato'. 
The metronome figures are 72 and 56 respectively for the crotchet 
in a bar of common time. 

The first theme is noteworthy for its rhythmic insistence and 
chromatic insidiousness: 

Ex. 7. 

Vlns. Clarinets 

The varied inflexion of the C, like the similar alternation of sharp 
and flat in the first movement, makes for emphasis, but here also 
increases with its ambiguity the sinister effect of the chromaticism. 
This theme, with some variation in detail and with the addition 
of a counterpoint in even quavers, is repeated some half a dozen 
times, often enough for it to begin to nag. Then it is abruptly 
interrupted by a flourish on the brass: 


and does not occur again in the movement, which is in four well- 
marked sections. The flourish and its answering phrase, a unison 
passage for strings, 


constitute the second section. It is repeated first by the woodwind 
in chorus, then by strings in diminishing intensity, each time 
followed by the unison passage (Ex. 9). Section HI consists of 94 
repetitions of Ex. 6 on trumpets, timpani and side-drum. Under 
this harsh insistence, which pursues an independent and unre 
mitting rhythm of its own, the wail of material derived from 
what had once been a flourish and its groping pendant (Ex. 9) is 


heard together with an outline on horns and trombones of Ex. 7 
surrounded by swirling scale passages. When it is possible to bear 
the trumpet figure no longer the will-it-never-end? feeling of 
the war appears both in this movement and the next the tumult 
dies, and only a cor anglais is left with a chromatic theme derived 
from Ex. 9; echoes of the flourish (Ex. 7) and of the trumpet 
figure (Ex. 6), now no longer brazen with trumpets but muffled 
on percussion and lower strings, with this theme constitute the 
coda. The cor anglais connects this movement to the scherzo. 
Incidentally all four movements are joined: 'each of the first three 
has its tail attached to the head of its neighbour', as the composer's 
own note puts it. 

IH. Scherzo 

The third movement is formally and nominally a scherzo but 
it is no joke. Here indeed battle is joined, the scoring is heavy 
throughout with little remission and the saxophone makes its 
odious voice heard in a couple of tunes the saxophone in serious 
music usually wears a leer. The emotions involved seem to be 
derived from the jackboots worn by trombones and tuba, from 
the scum of triviality as exemplified in Ex. 1 1 , which the composer 
himself describes as a "trivial little tune*, from the aforesaid leer of 
the saxophone in a tune which corresponds to a trio in a more 
normally constituted scherzo, from the resumptions of hostilities 
every time the music pauses for breath after which the subject 
starts up again in inversion, and above all from the awful feeling 
that the whole machine has got out of control and can be 
stopped by nothing. In the end it stops from inanition in a coda 
provided by the clarinets (treble and bass) playing an inversion of 
the main theme and leading into the Epilogue. 

This main theme consists of a string of fourths separated by 
semitones note that this is not the initial statement of it but 
the fullest: 


and so on for a considerable extension. The fourths sometimes 
slip into fifths, as may be observed, but then, the theme itself 
suffers from a number of 'bad shots' by various instruments. The 
trivial theme, assigned first to the high woodwind, is 

which is also extended to some twelve bars before it pauses for 
breath and then goes on in disjointed fragments of itself. The 
descending motion makes a useful counter-thrust to Ex. 10 and 
the xylophone is called upon to emphasize it. One would be hard 
put to it to define the key the augmented fourths in the main 
theme (Ex. 10) are sufficient cause for that disability but the 
tonal centres are marked by signatures, by the first notes of the 
theme at its different pitches and sometimes more conventionally 
as when the saxophone plays its tune in a modal C minor. Key 
organization however is rarely an important feature with Vaughan 
Williams whose use of tonality is very fluid was he not in some 
doubt whether his Fifth Symphony was in D or in G? The ground 
plan of this Scherzo is determined not by key but by theme. It 
consists of Exx. 10 and n which are strenuously developed to 
gether until the arrival of the saxophone solo 

Ex. 12. 

which provides the second subject it is repeated fortissimo by 
the full orchestra and is followed by another saxophone tune like 
itself accompanied by side-drum. This too is repeated by full 
orchestra. The third section opens quietly with an inversion of 
the first theme (Ex. 10) first tried by the bassoon against shimmer 
ing strings. The composer's own account of the events in this part 
of the movement is as follows: 

When the episode [i.e. the saxophone affair] is over the woodwind 
experiment as to how the fugue subject will sound upside down but the 


brass are angry [there is a good deal of anger in this symphony] and 
insist on playing it the right way up, so for a bit the two go on together 
and to the delight of everyone, including the composer, the two ver 
sions fit, so there is nothing to do now but to continue, getting more 
excited till the episode comes back very loud and twice as slow (i.e. 
what the professional annotator calls augmentation). 

This then is part four heavily scored and driving one to the point 
of exasperation. Part five is brief: the subject is inverted on the 
clarinet with only a mutter of muted trumpets and horns to 
accompany it on its way into the next movement. The links 
between the movements are in each case a single held note. 

IV. Epilogue 

'It is difficult to describe this movement analytically' says the 
composer in his own note. But the 'professional annotator' at 
whom he tilts has had a shot at it, and succeeded, perhaps with 
excessive ingenuity, in discovering thematic rektionships with 
the second movement. But what the listener hears is not themes, 
but the 'drifts' and 'whiffs', as the composer calls them, of tonal 
stuff. The musical essence of this music is dynamic and motional 
it is all soft and unhurried- Of course there have to be themes in 
which tone, dynamic, and motion can have their being, and the 
thematic material is in fact organized like a fugue, but to perform 
its emotional function in the symphony this finale behaves like a 

What is its emotional function? The first answer is given by its 
name it is an Epilogue. The Epilogue is a formal feature favoured 
by Vaughan Williams the London Symphony has one, the F 
minor Symphony has an Epilogo Fugato, and the last tableau of 
Job is sub-titled Epilogue. The purpose of an epilogue would 
seem to be the opposite of the classical symphonists' concluding 
rondo, which seeks to relax the rigour of the argument. The 
epilogue seems rather to be there to draw out, albeit gently, the 
implicit and underlying nexus of thought in a sequence of move 
ments. If an analyst discerns thematic resembknces to previous 
movements he is able to offer a technical warrant for an aesthetic 
perception that the movements are logical in their thought and 


congruous in their emotional content. Technical and aesthetic 
criticisms should go together as far as possible in our musical 
perceptions each fortifies the other. This ghostly Epilogue is the 
conclusion then of the anger of the first movement, the conflict 
of the second, the battery of the third. 

Verbal interpretation of music, as we know, is only profitable 
in inverse ratio to the precision and rigour with which it is 
pressed. Mendelssohn thought that music was more precise than 
words; most people think that words are too precise, and therefore 
limiting, for musical meaning. It is agreed that the composer 
expresses in his music thoughts for which his listeners will find 
individually different (and always partial and inadequate) verbal 
expressions. But what the central thought of this symphony is, 
seems to me, as I have already declared, plain beyond the possi 
bility of contradiction, however various each individual listener's 
reactions may be as to degrees of emphasis, shades of emotion, 
and the finer discriminations of words. To met his Epilogue spells 
out the emotional significance of the word 'aftermath'. The end 
of war is not triumph but dead-sea fruit. This is truth as a seer 
sees it, and, since prophecy is this vision of the seer, the music is 
prophetic not with the menace of an Old Testament prophet ad 
juring a contumacious people but with the cold asseveration of 
the scientist addressing an obtuse, or at least a careless generation. 
Here are the spiritual consequences of war. 

The movement is shaped like a fugue with exposition, episodes, 
contrapuntal devices (like augmentation), and a final section 
which departs from fugal convention in so far as the texture is not 
tightened to a climax but loosened to a dissolution (character 
istically marked 'niente'). The fugue subject, if such it may be 
called, is a long sinuous theme: 

sempre pp e senza cresc. 

in which the element a has a family relationship with the string 
unison theme of the second movement (i.e. Ex. 9) and more 


remotely with the first themes of the first movement (Exx. i and 
2), and the element b with the drum tap and trumpet motif of the 
second movement (Ex. 6). The recurrence of & at intervals within 
the theme provides a positive and recognizable feature in an 
otherwise deliberately featureless tune. The first violins continue 
it in a looser configuration by way of a counter-subject, or what 
would be a counter-subject if this was a strict fugue. The fugal 
answer however is not forthcoming at once in the second violins, 
only a bit of free, but of course congruent, counterpoint. The 
answer comes in the violas. The next statement of the subject is 
given to the flutes but in augmentation; its answer is made by the 
cellos. The exposition is rounded off by a unison statement of the 
theme (slightly modified) by the other strings and a simultaneous 
statement (augmented and paraphrased) of the subject on the 

The first episode is a kind of sigh on the brass: 


(The ear more often hears a descending than an ascending semi 
tone, because the voice of the tenor trombone is more penetrating 
than horn or trumpet.) Ex. 14 is repeated on the strings and 
passages in thirds for wind recur on a thread of quaver motion 
(derived from Ex. 13). The thread is transferred to the oboe in a 
new version. 

Ex. 15. 

gp cantabiU senza cresc. 

The injunction 'senza cresc/ is repeated over and over again, 
and pianissimo prevails throughout the movement. Even so 
the movement from this point steadily loses its vitality, save for 


one more reassertion of the subject by the strings in unison in 
this form: 

senza. cresc. 

The harp also spells out the augmented form of the subject. A 
second episode by the oboe solo is the last flicker of energy before 
it all dies away: 

EX. 11. 



j itr "ifT 

> b^ r r "i~I ^ -^" r- 

J r 

y%> senza cresc. 

==r LJj* 'I I I 1 LJ LLJ ' 


*^ T~< 

i 44^1 W^-hJ J^- 

Ambiguity of inflexion is thus still at this late stage a feature of the 
music. A further ambiguity is the key. 'At the very end the strings 
cannot make up their mind whether to finish in E flat major or 
E minor. They finally decide on E minor which is, after all, the 
home key/ Even so the chord of E minor is not in root position. 
We are left with a question mark. 

Concurrently with the composition of this symphony Vaughan 
Williams was engaged in writing music for the film Scott of the 
Antarctic, and the connexion between these two works and a pro 
jected Sinfonia Antartica, in so far as it can be unravelled, affords 
an insight into the working of the creative imagination and into 
the nature of music as a language. When the Epilogue was first 
heard it inevitably suggested 'something from another world' 
and every hearing confirms the view that in its context it is a 
'prophecy', in the sense already defined, of what life is like in a 
desolate world, whether this world or the next. Now, while 
debate was proceeding on the question whether this ghostly 
fugue had any such meaning, the suggestion was mooted that the 
Sixth Symphony contained some of the Antarctic music of the 
film. Here then were two interpretations which at first glance 
seemed remote and incompatible, but are soon seen to be but two 


manifestations of one basic idea the desolation of a lost world. 
Music may not be able to write a news item about particular 
occurrences but it can certainly deal with concepts after its 
own fashion. The tone-poems of Strauss show how far music 
can be specific and particular and Wagner showed how music 
itself could be conceptually determined in its development. 
Here then we had something between the more immediate 
form of programme music and music absolutely determined by 
its fugal form but conveying nevertheless a clear conceptual 

Mr. Martin Cooper, who saw only the most general connexion 
between the music and the times in which it was composed, who 
deprecated any closer identification with the war and was un 
aware of a possible polar significance, wrote in a programme 
analysis for the Leeds Festival of 1950: 

But the soft drift of the music covers them [i.e. some more defined 
melodic fragments] quickly, obliterating their contours and piling itself 
slowly and relentlessly over a limitless horizon until silence and noth 
ingness swallow all. 

What is that but the description by a percipient mind of a polar 
landscape? But if it is a polar landscape what is it doing in a war 
symphony? A third question is: if the symphony is neither about 
war nor tie South Pole but is simply abstract music, what is the 
connexion of this shadowy fugue with the trumpets of the second 
movement, what indeed is the musical connexion between any 
of these four linked movements? The last question must be left to 
be answered by the absolutists who declare this to be Symphony 
No. 6 in E minor and nothing more. But those who admit the 
influence of a programme, whether in the reserved terms of Mr. 
Cooper's note l or of my own more specific but sharply questioned 
interpretation, will like to have the answers to the other questions, 
which were supplied by the late Ernest Irving, musical director 

1 *It is useless to search for any preciser "programme" or to read esoteric philo 
sophical interpretations into the music which expresses moods but neither depicts 
events nor embodies ideas at least none clearly defined or important enough 
to the appreciation of the work for the composer to think it necessary to reveal 


of the Ealing Film Studios where Scott of the Antarctic was made, 
who conducted the recording. 

He settles the question whether any of the film music was used 
in the symphony it was not. The composer himself confirms 
that there was no conscious connexion and complicates an already 
tangled puzzle by admitting that some thematic expressions used 
in another film, The Flemish Farm, were utilized in this symphony 
(see HLM MUSIC, p. 364). But the extraordinary character of this 
Epilogue forces upon every responsive listener the question of its 
meaning for without some spiritual significance it does not fulfil 
its function as an epilogue to what has gone before, since musically 
the connexion is nil. Its meaning is plain: it is the ultimate desola 
tion, whether spiritual or physical. Mr. Cooper's note, while 
deprecating any precise programme, describes its general nature 
in terms so evocative as to give the lie to his own caveat, and 
other commentators equally reluctant to attach extraneous mean 
ings to the fugue have been forced to admit that there is a similar 
ity between the desolation of the Antarctic and the desolation 
depicted in this Epilogue. 

Historically some sort of kinship is possible because the com 
position of the two scores overlapped in 1947, and it is an element 
ary fact of psychology known to us all that association of ideas 
by mere contiguity in time or circumstance is not only possible 
but is a basic activity of the human mind. We now have both 
Epilogues and can compare them closely: it appears that the 
desolation of the Sixth Symphony is a deeper, because human, 
desolation than the inhuman desolation of the Sinfonia Antartica. 
Dead-sea firuit, a ruined world are the topics of the fugue; Polar 
wastes of the march movement. 'Desolation is the same thing if 
expressed by the South Pole, the battlefield, or the Elysian 
Fields', says Mr. Irving with truth, and it is the general, more 
than the particular, manifestations of it that music is bound by its 
very nature to portray. 

The association of ideas is revealed by a thematic correspond 
ence first pointed out by Mr. Desmond Shawe-Taylor: if the 
little piece of the fugue subject embodying the rise and fall 
of a minor third is compared with the opening horn theme of 


'Landscape' in the Sinfonia it will be seen that the image of a 
desolate world, whether visual or conceptual or both together, has 
found a similarity of vocabulary in which to express itself: 


The re-entrant minor third is also a feature of the soprano 
soloist's cadenza in the Epilogue of the Sinfonia Antartica, which 
resembles in general shape and function the oboe's final cadenza in 
this symphony. 

Sinfonia Antartica 

That there is a programme behind all of Vaughan "Williams's 
symphonies should by now be clear beyond dispute. Sometimes 
it is unavowed but not difficult to discern, sometimes a tide gives 
the clue, sometimes a literary motto attached (even if it is sub 
sequently removed as in No. 5). But the Sinfonia Antartica is more 
specifically programme music than its predecessors, more so than 
Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, from which all the programme 
symphonies of the nineteenth century from Mendelssohn to 
Tchaikovsky ultimately derive. It is indeed a symphonic poem 
cast into a formal mould of a symphony in separate movements. 

It is this prominence of the programmatic element that caused 
the composer to choose the Italian tide rather than the honest 
English word 'symphony' he did not wish to claim that this 
work belonged to the canon of his symphonies. That he did not 
number it No. 7 is of no significance since he has eschewed 
numbers for all his symphonies, and it is only his commentators 
who have been driven to commit the sin of enumeration for the 
sake of its sheer convenience. 

There was some dispute when the work was first performed in 
January 1953 on the I4th and isth in Manchester at Halle 


concerts and on the 2ist at a Philharmonic concert in London 
about the spelling of the title. Vaughan Williams called it Sinfonia 
Antarctica, but it was pointed out to him that though English 
derived 'arctic' straight from the Greek apxrog the Italians had 
shed the middle c so that his chosen title was a linguistic solecism. 
To this argument he yielded, though he might have kept his c if 
he had gone completely Greek and called the work Symphonia 
Antarctica. The Italian form is official and correct. 

The origin of the Sinfonia is the film, Scott of the Antarctic, for 
which Vaughan Williams provided music in 1949 (see p. 364). 
The musical director of the Ealing Film Studios, Ernest Irving, 
was responsible for the performance and recording of the film 
music and to him the Sinfonia Antartica is dedicated. He had 
a .unique knowledge of the gestation of the symphony and he 
was good enough with the composer's concurrence to make it 
available. The music for the film was composed without previous 
acquaintance with Charles Frend's film. There may have been a 
few 'stills' of shots taken in Norway shown to him in an early 
stage of the negotiations but the inspiration of the music came 
from mastery by his imagination of the epic of Scott's expedition 
upon which the film was very strictly based: the music of 
'Landscape* was not visually but conceptually inspired. And so 
deep did the insight go into the dramatic requirements of the 
situations depicted in the film that apart from some minor adjust 
ments in timing, music and its visual counterpart were found to 
fit perfectly when, months later, the photography had been done 
and could be married to the sound-track. Irving has related 1 
how Vaughan Williams wrote the Prelude which went with the 
'main title' out of the blue with the sole briefing that it was to 
last about eighty-four seconds. The subject of the film was man's 
struggle against Nature not our Mother Nature and kindly 
nurse, but brute Nature, indifferent and implacable. This music 
was dubbed over the scene of climbing the Great Glacier, which 
the composer had never seen, and the fit needed the alteration of 
not a note. This music is expanded into the Prelude of the 
Sinfonia Antartica and sets out quite clearly that the main subject 
1 Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, LXXVI, pp. 40-41. 


of the symphony is the battle of man against Nature, with man in 
this case the defeated party. If this is Vaughan Williams's Eroica, 
it does not end, like Beethoven's, with the release of man's 
creative energies but of their relentless paralysis and extinction. 
The listener carries away from a hearing of the Sinfonia an un 
spoken moral the spirit of man facing fearful odds and bravely 
accepting his loss of the battle. 

Even while the film was being produced, i.e. during 1947, 
Vaughan Williams realized that something deeper had been 
stirred in him than incidental music and he was concerned, as the 
time drew on, whether the film would prevent htm later on 
writing an Antarctic Symphony using the same themes which he 
had been slowly revolving in his mind. This was at the end of 
1948; by June 1949 he was asking for the return of the scores and 
sketches so that he could start thinking about the symphonic 
version of the Antarctic, but by September it was not going well 
and had to wait a bit. But the long gestation served to do precisely 
what was needed to turn incidental music, mere fragments of 
description, as close to particular episodes as they could be made, 
into the universal themes and emotions proper to the broad 
generalizations of a symphony. Had the process of universaHza- 
tion been less complete the work could only have issued as a 
symphonic poem on the pattern of Em Heldenleben (which des 
cribes a very different sort of heroism by generalizing from 
particular instances). As it is, the five separate movements show 
that the raw material of the film has been completely assimilated 
to the form and nature of a symphony. To make doubly certain 
of the metamorphosis of Scott and the Antarctic into Man's heroic 
endeavour against blind Nature, the composer has appended to 
each movement a poetic motto in which the general ideas em 
bodied in the music find also a verbal expression. There is to be 
no mistake what this Sinfonia means, whatever may be said, 
denied, or left unsaid about the meaning of No. 6. 

The orchestra employed is very large comprising triple wood 
wind, the usual strings and brass, three-part female chorus, soprano 
solo, celesta, harp, piano, organ, xylophone, glockenspiel and 
vibraphone, the usual drums, cymbals and triangle, two low-pitch 


bells in B flat and D (in F if the low B flat bell is unobtainable) 
and a wind machine which is to be out of sight. The vibraphone 
is an instrument in which the percussive and the electrical prin 
ciples are combined. It is like a xylophone but it has resonators 
with lids which open and shut by electricity so as to impart 
pulsation and extra duration to the note which is hit. It appeared 
first in dance bands, invaded serious music in Berg's Lulu and 
has been acclimatized to the English scene by Britten in his Spring 
Symphony. The organ has a vitally important solo in the middle 
movement, 'Landscape', and can only be omitted if the pitch is 
wrong or if it is non-existent in the place of performance. 

The following analysis is based on the composer's own pro 
gramme-note, which, though less derisory of this form of litera 
ture than was his note on the Sixth Symphony, does contain one 
little tilt at the 'official analyst', who is not a local government 
officer at the Town Hall but the writer of these analytical notes. 

I. Prelude 

The first movement is styled 'Prelude' and is based on the 
themes used for the title music of the film. The poetic super 
scription is from Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, Act IV, 1. 570: 

To suffer woes which hope thinks infinite, 
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night, 
To defy power which seems omnipotent, 
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent: 
This ... is to be 

Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free, 
This is alone life, joy, empire and victory. 

The form of the Prelude is simple tripartite but not ABA. It is 
ABC in which A is heroic adventure, B its Antarctic opponent, 
C the attack by man upon it. Here is no recapitulation but simple 
juxtaposition: formal unity is finally secured by the repetition of 
much of this music from the Prelude in the Epilogue. In section B 
there are four elements of which the first, the howling wilderness, 
is portrayed by the soprano solo and is recapitulated to enclose 
the second, third, and fourth elements, which are respectively 


glaciality symbolized by the vibraphone, envelopment as it might 
be by fog or cold in a sinuous theme, and the fourth a new 
menace indicated by the deep bell. This is the only recapitulation 
to be found in this Prelude. 

The title theme of the film and the motto theme of the sym 
phony is this: 

Ex. 1. Andante maestoso 
f\ Oboes 

The left hand indicates the harmonies on the harp, pizzicato 
strings, and trombones with which the oboe tune is accompanied. 
The oboes are doubled by trumpet. This single rising theme is 
repeated and extended with the normal full orchestra carrying it, 
augmented only by the pianoforte which serves to give a firm 
cutting edge to the determined upthrust of the theme in the bass. 
The end of the section is quite clear it is a common chord of 
G major. For the second section the time changes to 4 in a bar, 
the speed to lento, the tone colour to the sharp and brittle sounds 
of xylophone and piano now playing martellato: 

This forms a prelude to the entry of the voice singing without 


i f 
M I 

" w 


The choice of voices for the uninhabited Antarctic met with 
opposition in the film studio, which was however quelled by 
Irving. Their use is certainly paradoxical since one would ex 
pect them to suggest the presence of humanity, but so long as 
they are kept in the distance their sound is unearthly; voix blanches 
have an impersonal enough sound and the particular kind of 
sustained continuous sound smoother than strings, remoter than 
flutes, aloof, and if emotionally coloured at all, suggestive of 
desolation. Hoist had used them for a somewhat similar purpose 
at the end of Neptune in The Planets. They are accompanied by 
the wind machine* 

In the next paragraph of this middle section the glacial aspect 
of the terrain appears when to the piano now playing its chords 
Alberti fashion is added the glockenspiel tick-tacking in semitone 
figures and the celesta executing rapid runs. This is ice, made blue 
with the vibraphone which plays chords of four notes. The third 
idea threads these glacial noises on a see-saw sinuous theme in 
which there is more movement- the wind or something is 
getting up whatever it is it comes to a climax and stops dead. 
The eerie business starts again, quietly now, on flutes while above 
them the violins grind semitonally against each other tremolando: 

fix, 4. Tranqmllo ^- T , . ~T" 

K , Flutes ,<| J .J .bJ. J J .U .bJ. ,g 

ir r-i r ir r -i i i 

Now comes the bell which the composer says was 'supposed, in 
the film, to be menacing 5 . Ex. 3 returns to complete this section. 
The antagonists are in the ring. Man makes the first move against 
Nature in a clarion call 

Ex, 5. ^ 

* Trumpi 


which introduces the coda, founded on Ex. i but now in a 
different rhythm and flattened out in contour, against which the 
fanfare Ex. 5 can thrust itself. 


H. Scherzo 

If the first movement sets the stage for spiritual conflict, the 
next two movements are geographically descriptive the first a 
Scherzo, the second a slow movement entitled 'Landscape'; the 
first a study in natural history, the second a study it would seem in 
geology. In the Scherzo there is life, animal life, and there are the 
ships bearing men on their way to confront their antagonist. 
There is a resemblance between this Scherzo and that of the Sea 
Symphony written more than forty years before, a resemblance 
even in one of the themes. Thus Ex. 6, which the composer in his 
own note describes as a little wisp of theme, is very near to the 
opening theme of the third movement of the Sea Symphony 
(Ex. 8 of Sea Symphony, p. 7). 


Neither this specific resemblance nor the more general resemblance 
of ships moving in great waters is any cause for surprise. It is not 
a question of reminiscence. Music is a language and though its 
currency is more limited, so that composers do not invariably 
employ the same idioms as one another in turning a visual image 
or a conceptual idea into musical terms, there is even on this uni 
versal plane more agreement than is sometimes recognized, and in 
the individual composer the same image will inevitably create the 
same musical equivalent for its expression. 
The literary superscription of the movement is 

There go the ships 

and there is that Leviathan 

whom thou hast made to take his pastime therein. 

from Psalm 104. 

It opens with a short motif on the horns, quite firm and com 
pact to stand, as it were, for the deck of the ship from which the 
surrounding swirl of waters is surveyed. The swirl consists of 


harp glissando, drum-roll, strings tremolando, and clarinets in 
wavy arpeggio. The horn motif is 

Ex 7 WT t 


n i 

3 i 


This is taken up, repeated, and expanded while the scoring 
becomes more tense though more fluid in semiquaver movement. 
It also becomes more animated at the moment when the trumpet 
relieves the horns of Ex. 7 and plays Ex. 6, which is plainly a 
motif from the same root idea. It extends itself into a shape 
which imparts a good deal of 12/8 quaver motion to the rest of 
the movement. Ex. 6 and this extension are transferred to the 
strings, clarinets keep up their wave motion and the whole score 
is awash for several pages. But a more rigid rhythm is produced 
by a change from compound to simple time, which heralds the 
approach of Leviathan. Here he is: 

Ex. 8. 

without his tail but pushing into the waves on the dark and edgy 
instrumentation of cor anglais, clarinets, including the bass of the 
species, and bassoon. This theme was actually used in the film to 
represent whales. Penguins follow, 

again on clarinets and bassoons but descending to tuba and double- 
bassoon on their first approach. They disport themselves in a 
shorter version of Ex. 9 with less surrounding accompaniment. 
This, says the composer, is the section which the official analyst 
would call the Trio. So indeed he might, but he would look in 
vain for the subsequent return of the Scherzo. The 12/8 rhythm 
reappears and with it some sort of suggestion of Ex. 6 but the 
movement soon ends, dying away in a mist, or as the composer 


puts it, 'on an indefinite chord*, formed by two chords swaying 
a chromatic semitone and finally coalescing: 

Ex. 10, 

o i 

HI. Landscape 

The third movement is at once the core of the symphony, the 
most original in conception, the most powerful in imagination, 
and the one in which the composer at the age of eighty breaks 
what is for him new ground. It was said of the London Symphony 
that something of the impressionist methods then recently ex 
ploited by Debussy went to its composition, but when all is said 
in favour of that view the London Symphony remains essentially 
a thematic structure with its tunes, not its orchestration, as its 
most prominent feature. The musical interest of 'Landscape 5 is 
that it is music-making by means of orchestral sonorities. True, 
there are themes, because music is a matter of notes of definite 
pitch and measures of definite duration, but pitch and time in this 
movement are no more than the base in which orchestration 
inheres, like the paraffin wax which is the base of an ointment 
whose medicinal properties are the drugs that inhere in it. It is in 
this movement that the very large orchestral forces are folly 
deployed. This is tone-painting on the grandest possible scale and 
its literary motto, though less tremendous, is at any rate a sum 
mary of what a glacier is, though it is of an Alpine glacier that 
Coleridge speaks, not a frozen continent of high mountains such 
as exists at the South Pole. 

Ye ice falls! Ye that from the mountain's brow 
Adown enormous ravines slope amain 
Torrents, methinks, that heard a mighty voice, 
And stopped at once amid their maddest plunge! 
Motionless torrents! Silent cataracts! 

From 'Hymn before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni*. 

The form of the music consists of a stream of sound hung upon 
thematic material of little interest either in itself or for potential 


development, proceeding until it meets a blank wall in the shape 
of terrific chords on the organ. These chords 



given out with the full power of the organ are intended to stand 
out from the sound texture, though cues are provided for full 
brass, woodwind and strings in case an organ is not available. 
But their significance as the unassailable peak, the impenetrable 
mass, the unscalable wall, or whatever the picture that forms in the 
individual listener's mind, depends largely on the use of un 
compromising organ tone after all the values in this movement 
are entirely those of sonority. In view of the literary quotation at 
the head of the music it is in the composer's intention probably 
the 'ice falls', sheer walls of unscalable ice, but to my mind when 
I first heard it it somehow conveyed an even more elemental 
impression it was the geological core of the terrain, a pre-Cam- 
brian outcrop of gneisses. Readers of Jacquetta Hawkes's A Land 
will recall that in it by poetic insight she intermingles time and 
matter to make a history of Britain. She shows how the behaviour 
of molten matter under pressure of the immense processes of time 
has made the world on which we walk. This Polar landscape has 
its geology as well as its visual appearance, and while visibly it is 
all white and geographically it is a climate of wind and cold, 
beneath is its geological foundation (from which, incidentally, we 
learn that its climate was once sub-tropical). We glimpse through 
this Antarctic landscape created by the musician's imagination 
for he has never seen it and had arrived at it entirely through 
Scott's journal and perhaps Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey 
in the World a picture of the world before the hills in order stood 
or earth received her frame, elemental matter, the elements. 


The composer's own note points out some of the thematic 
threads on which the sounds of icicles are threaded but they have 
less significance than analysis normally attaches to thematic quota 
tions. The movement opens and closes with a muted horn-call: 

Ex. 12. 

A Lento 

jJiJ |!J MJ J"-^J J 


In this theme a resemblance has been seen to part of the fugue 
subject of the Epilogue of the Sixth Symphony the rise and fall 
of the minor third. It emerges from a shimmer of drum and 
cymbal rolls and harp glissandi ('up and down as rapid as pos 
sible') in which the flutes, which are important throughout the 
movement for their white tone, chill the air with the bite of their 

The flute wail is extended and more ice is added to the mixture 
by glockenspiel, celesta, and piano the harp glissandi cease and 
chords take their place as the time quickens from lento to 
andante moderate. The thing is held together by a slow-moving, 
descending theme in the heavy brass; for music must by its own 
nature move forward in rime even when it depicts immobility 
and time standing still. There is now added to the texture still 
more movement in the shape of triplet chords on the horns and 
the tone is increasing. Then it all stops. It starts again with an 
immensely slow theme in octaves sub and super on strings and 
woodwind with the brass following in imitation: 

Up and down go these lines getting nowhere and at one point 
pausing on a sustained chord while Ex. 12 is heard high up on the 
flute. The flutes now take charge, though others, notably the 


xylophone, join them. A new flat and featureless theme is also 
propounded on the strings: 

Round this more positive motives are grouped, triplets, arab 
esques, low notes on the tuba and the organ pedal which build up 
into a big climax for the return fortissimo of Ex. 14 against which 
is suddenly hurled the progression of organ chords of Ex. n 
preceded by a crash on the gong. The organ solo is interspersed 
with runs, rumbles, and glissandi from the instruments which are 
capable of them, and out of this antiphony finally projects on 
wind and strings with the piccolo at the top a high B natural. 
Nothing seems to be able to stop this whistle and it does actually 
provide the link, like those in the Sixth Symphony, with the next 

IV. Intermezzo 

The Intermezzo is a slighter movement and is explained by the 
motto from Donne's 'The Sun Rising': 

Love, all alike, no season knows, or clime, 

Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time. 

After the inhumanity of Nature its human antagonist must have 
his say, and whether the particular reference of the original music 
in the film is to the explorer's wife and all the human values risked 
in the desperate adventure or not, it seems clear from the reference 
to Oates's death music at the end of this symphonic intermezzo 
that the conversion of a bit of programmatic film music into a 
symphonic andante has here, as elsewhere, transformed the parti 
cular into the universal. It has been suggested therefore that this 
movement symbolizes the ties that bind men together, but love 
of whatever sort played but a small part in the epic battle and 
formally the Intermezzo serves the purpose of contrast and relief 
between two movements of monumental and icy grandeur. 


It is founded on three themes, of which the first hovering 
between major and minor may stand for a wave of homesickness: 

Ex. 16. Andante sostenuto 

r. ;A Oboc _- ' J ^- " T"" 5 

nTT"i i i 

^ * J 

' ' ' ' 

J3 cantabik 

Accompanied by close chords on the harp this tune is transferred 
from one instrument to another and its accompaniment is ex 
panded till the whole orchestra barring the supplementary instru 
ments is involved. The cor anglais echoes the first phrase by way 
of codetta before the second section, which is marked allegretto. 
The tune of this section which continues in much the same mood 
of separation and nostalgia in B minor is 

Ex. 17. 


This is subjected to the same kind of expanding treatment, until 
it is cut short by the knell for Gates in great chords with the 
menacing bell once more. After this complete section which is all 
of it soft there is a coda which reverts to Ex. 16 taken up in canon 
by woodwind soloists. It is noteworthy that there is very little 
conscious contrivance to link the sections of this, or the other, 
movements together. Their emotional congruence or contrast is 
so clear that juxtaposition is enough and the sections in them 
selves are not so long as to lose their identity in the listener's mind. 

V. Epilogue 

The finale, which bears Vaughan Williams's favourite formal 
term Epilogue, is founded upon an extract from Captain Scott's 
last journal: 

I do not regret this journey; we took risks, we knew we took them, 
things have come out against us, therefore we have no cause for 


Humanity flings its final challenge at the elements in a trumpet 

Ex. 18. 


j J U I iLy L TCJ <Js J ' r |T I r F f r 

Horns take it up against a huge orchestral (and pianistic) tremo- 
lando; then the trombones and the heavy basses have it. Finally 
the strings seize it and modifying its angular contour turn it into 
a march so: 

Ex. 19. 


f cantabile 

This is a relation of Ex. i, 'obviously suggested by the opening 
of the Prelude', says the composer. It runs to 16 + 8 bars of 
mounting energy. This main march tune is completed by a new 
theme with an ofi-the-beat accompaniment: 

But this brave show is checked and the music shivers, although the 
clarinets keep up a strong diatonic bit of tune: 

Ex. 21. 

More important than the tune however, which is but a thematic 
thread, is the heavy triplet accompaniment of the horns, trumpets, 
and woodwind: 


This marks the centre-point of the movement and represents the 
final catastrophe. It is an expansion of the music associated in the 


film with the blizzard which finally defeated Scott and his com 
panions. It includes a passage for a bassoon solo of the kind some 
times used in similarly bleak contexts by Sibelius, but the triplets 
of Ex. 22 return in greater strength at the end of what the official 
analyst might very well claim to be a trio section of the march. 
The march itself returns but with its constituent themes Exx. 19 
and 20 in reverse order. A second trio brings back the music of 
the Prelude, deep bell, voices, wind machine and all, from the 
second section of the first movement, followed by the first subject 
Ex. i. This is now a lament for the failure of the forlorn hope. 
Out of it grows a coda in which the voices are the important 
element though lower strings and timpani support them. The 
soprano sings a wailing passage of descending cadenza, which 
resembles in shape and function the similar cadenza for oboe at 
the end of the Sixth Symphony. Voices and wind machine 
alternate with it and the music dies away from the desolate 
continent. Blind Nature has triumphed and the ultimate desola 
tion continues until the next cosmic change makes the Antarctic 
seas once more sub-tropical and supporting life. 

Some objection has been taken to the use of the wind machine, 
which is a relic from the film music. It is, say the objectors, an 
unnecessary incursion of realism into what is being quite success 
fully accomplished by the methods of musical suggestion. It is 
true that the instrument needs to be kept out of sight as the 
composer prescribes and not too energetically played. But there 
is surely no more aesthetic objection to its use in principle than to 
the use of onomatopoeic words in poetry, which is as old as 
language, or to the appearance of the cuckoo in Beethoven's and 
Delius's scores when his presence is demanded by the subject of 
the work. If the effect is well managed and the singers also are kept 
well behind the scenes to suggest distance, the final bars achieve a 
curious and eerie effect in which onomatopoeic noise and pianis 
simo tone blend into a mere murmur of sound. If the pitch of the 
wind machine can be made to fall to the E flat sung by the voices 
so much the more do the sounds merge. 

Orchestral Music 


THE Six SYMPHONIES stand apart in Vaughan Williams's output, 
but he has written orchestral music all his life, beginning with the 
Norfolk Rhapsodies and the Symphonic Impression In the Fen 
Country, composed immediately after his folk-song collecting ex 
periences in East Anglia in 1904. No folk-songs are used in In the 
Fen Country, the Rhapsodies, of which only one, the first in E 
minor, now survives, were founded on them. Some account of 
them will be found on p. 229 where works incorporating actual 
folk-tunes are discussed and the sources of the tunes indicated. 
After In the Fen Country came The Wasps, incidental music com 
posed for the Cambridge Greek Play of 1909. From then on the 
tale grows multifarious, small works succeeding big, occasional 
works occurring sporadically, spanning the whole range from the 
Tallis Fantasia (1910) to the Concerto Grosso for amateur string 
players (1950). 

In the Fen Country 

Roughly contemporary with the Norfolk Rhapsodies, In the 
Fen Country is described as a Symphonic Impression, and the dis 
position of the music is like the impressionism that was being 
applied at the turn of the century to instrumental music for piano 
and orchestra, especially to any music that derived its inspiration 
from visual impressions. Vaughan Williams had just been doing 
his folk-song collecting in East Anglia when he composed In the 
Fen Country. The score bears the inscription in the composer's 
own hand: Composed April 1904; Revised 1905 and 1907; 
Orchestration revised 1935. 

Unlike the Norfolk Rhapsodies it contains no folk-tunes, but 


the melody which begins, ends, and dominates the piece opens 
rather like a folk-song: 


p espress. 

The scoring is elaborate, requiring third flute, cor anglais, and bass 
clarinet beside the standard specification. The form is something 
like a simple rondo, in which instead of episodes there are develop 
ments from the simple and almost unadorned melody to a very 
complex and impressionistically orchestrated texture. At the 
second appearance of the tune it is not quite the same tune but an 
augmented version in triple time on the oboe. Again the texture 
thickens and quickens and thins out. The first tempo, mood, and 
expression return with the tune, Ex. i in its old form, and its 
pendant semiquavers, figure a, are worked as in the opening but 
with much less inflation of the texture, which fines away to 

This then is the first orchestral work and represents along with 
the Norfolk Rhapsodies an attempt to achieve by means of the 
current practices of nationalism, such as are to be seen at work 
successfully in Smetana and Dvorak, an independence of German 
symphonic methods. 

Overture to The Wasps 

The incidental music for The Wasps of Aristophanes was com 
posed for performance at Cambridge in 1909. There is a long 
tradition at Oxford and Cambridge of staging the tragedies and 
comedies of the Greek dramatists in a form that is a compromise 
with antiquity. They are given in the original language but are not 
staged, as at Bradfield College, in the open-air, nor is any attempt 
made at imitating what little is known of ancient Greek music. 
What is known of the Attic theatre is that the choruses were 


chanted and in some cases danced on die dancing floor (orchestra) 
in front of the stage. In order to bring the plays to dramatic life 
the conventions of a modern theatre with proscenium arch are 
accepted and the music is frankly composed in modern idiom 
Greek music appears to have been entirely monodic. These pro 
ductions are always backed by classical scholarship but they are 
infused by the spirit of amateur theatricals. In the case of Aristo- 
phanic comedies The Birds, The Frogs, The Wasps, The Clouds, 
The Acharnians have all come in for academic production the 
zest of undergraduate fun is turned to account. But Aeschylus no 
less than Aristophanes has had his share of revival and composers 
who have taken part in these periodical productions at both 
Universities have been Parratt, Macfarren, Parry (who wrote 
music for the Agamemnon as well as three plays of Aristophanes), 
Stanford, C. H. Lloyd, Charles Wood, Tertius Noble who anti 
cipated Vaughan Williams in The Wasps, and in a later generation 
Walter Leigh, Robin Orr, and Patrick Hadley, both before and 
after he became Professor of Music at Cambridge. 

The Wasps overture has now a firm place for itself in the con 
cert room, though the choral portions of the dramatic music have 
naturally not survived. It is valuable historically in that it shows 
the modal influence of folk-song having secured a firm footing in 
Vaughan Williams's personal style. The overture is in an orthodox 
sonata form. The orchestration is for small orchestra with acces 
sories, i.e. there are no trombones and only two horns, and one 
trumpet suffices until far on in the recapitulation. A harp however 
is an important requisite and the percussion involves besides 
timpani, a big drum, cymbals, and a triangle. The themes are 
taken from the characters in the play. 

The overture begins with the buzzing of the wasps, who are for 
Aristophanes the dicasts, i.e. those Athenian citizens whose passion 
for litigation was reinforced by the payments they received for 
sitting on the bench of judges. The trills and cuivre notes on the 
horn and sharp pizzicato notes which make up the music of the 
angry wasps is an introduction, to which there is a further refer 
ence in the development section. The first two tunes refer to 
Philocleon, one of the old men who are left behind to man the 


jury panels in time of war, when they can neither fight nor carry 
on their businesses. They are 


in which the flattened sixth and seventh give bite to his zeal, 


f marcato 

which indicates his fundamental honesty. For Aristophanes 
though venomous as ever against Cleon, is sorry for the misguided 
but essentially decent Philocleon. After suitable repetition and 
expansion these two tunes are put together in counterpoint. The 
bridge passage to the second subject is marked by a change to a 
three-bar rhythm (Beethoven's ritmo di tre battute} in which frag 
ments of Ex. i are flicked against harp arpeggios and from which 
emerges a bit of tune on a solo violin, which is a presage of the 
second subject. This bit of tune, which also occurs in the develop- 

mpnt ic * 

ment, is 


The big tune of the second subject represents Bdelycleon (who 
hates the demagogue Cleon) and his reconciliation with his father 
Philocleon (who loves him): 



Via. Horn & Clarinet 




The development consists of the working of the first bars of Ex. i 
to produce animation with references to Ex. 3 and the buzz of 
the wasps. The recapitulation is normal, to the point of having 
Ex. 2 in F instead of D but having the second subject played in 
combination with Ex. i. There is a short coda based on Ex. i 
at an increased speed. 

A suite of four short orchestral movements was also extracted 
from the music of the Greek Play and is sometimes heard. It con 
sists of two entractes, separated by a March of the Kitchen 
Utensils and a concluding Ballet and Final Tableau. This last is a 
polite equivalent for the ancient xopdag, a relic of the broad 
indecencies of the Old Comedy, Aristophanes' final shaft of 
ridicule is directed at Carcinus, a rival poet, whose sons are made 
to dance. Philocleon, tipsy and sleepy in the Cambridge produc 
tion, follows them off the stage trying to imitate their movements. 
Vaughan Williams's cordax begins allegro vivacissimo, becomes 
piu mosso and finishes presto. 

The Kitchen Utensils movement, called in the score of the 
Greek Play, 'March Past of the Witnesses', are the pot, pestle and 
water-jug, which are summoned as witnesses of good character 
for an unfortunate dog who is to be tried for a theft of cheese. 
Bdelycleon has persuaded his father that he can satisfy his legal 
passions harmlessly at home and produces two dogs to argue 
before him. This too is another satirical shaft aimed at Cleon, who 
had recently prosecuted a decent soldier for some incident in the 
Sicilian campaign. All the pieces of the Suite are slight and as 
high-spirited as the comedy requires. 

But they are of course not Greek but English. It is an example 
of the art of music being enriched by classical literature in the 
same sort of way, but of much rarer occurrence, that English 
literature has been enriched by Greek. 

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis 

With the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for Double 
String Orchestra, produced at Queen's Hall by Beecham in 1909 


and repeated at the Gloucester Festival in the following year, 
Vaughan Williams declared himself to the world as a new force 
in English music. It had been apparent from Toward, the Unknown 
Region at the Leeds Festival of 1907 that a new composer with 
something to say in the choral tradition had arrived, but that 
admirable cantata can be appreciated in terms of Brahms and 
Parry. The Tallis Fantasia is quite another matter; in it is found 
one of the forces that have emancipated not only one com 
poser but English music as a whole from continental influences. 
Folk-song was the other, of which signs were manifested in the 
Norfolk Rhapsodies of 1906 and The Wasps incidental music of 
1909. Here the influence of the Elizabethans is both direct and 

The two revivals, of folk-song and the Elizabethans, were in 
full swing and exercising to the maximum their beneficial fertiliz 
ing influence in the first decade of the twentieth century. The most 
conspicuous technical feature common to both is their modality. 
The ordinary tonality of the major-minor key system seemed to 
be dissolving in extreme chromaticism or sheer exhaustion. Neo- 
modalism, if only a reculement pour mieux sauter, offered a way 
round the impasse of three centuries of harmonic development. 
All that had been learned of modulation could be applied to the 
other scales, over and above the Ionian and the Aeolian which had 
dominated the major-minor key system. Flattened sevenths, their 
chief distinguishing feature, became positively fashionable. The 
tune of Tallis which Vaughan Williams took as his theme is in the 
Third or Phrygian mode, of which the characteristic intervals are 
a flat second, a flat third, a flat sixth, and a fiat seventh. Tallis 
composed the tune in 1567 for Archbishop Parker's metrical 
Psalter, one of nine which he contributed to that book which was 
actually printed but for some reason suppressed from publication. 
Vaughan Williams restored this one to the currency of public 
worship by printing it in The English Hymnal in 1906 as the 
tune for Addison's hymn 'When rising from the bed of death* 
(No. 92). Here are his two harmonizations of it: 




^ f ' o r ; o p i * -^ ; 5 ii p ra -a ' g g 13 




The theme is not at once stated in its entirety but after its 
opening phrase is interrupted by a phrase of swaying chords 
which acts as a kind of recurrent refrain: 


So early appears the use of parallel consecutive fifths to give 
a strong bass line that was to become such a sign manual of 
the composer's style as to be irreverently called the *Back- 
to-Hucbald' movement. The theme is then given out in full 
with the harmonization of the skeleton shown in Ex. 2 in nine 

The lay-out is for string orchestra, smaller string orchestra, and 
solo quartet, and much of the antiphony is dependent on the 
differentiation in weight of tone and geographical position, where 
practicable, of the disparate forces. They are not however im 
mediately set out in separate array: the nine-part harmony of the 
opening bars and the subsequent harmonization of the tune in 
five real parts is realized by the tutti. The tune is repeated, as is 
the way with tunes, with the texture further enriched by a semi 
quaver counterpoint of swaying arpeggios (in sixths) on the 
second violins. There is an ekborate cadence with echo formed 
out of the four-in-a-bar termination of the tune (cf. Exx. i and 2). 
This constitutes an exposition. Now the orchestras divide and 
antiphony begins. Antiphony is better served with short phrases 
tlian with long self-subsistent tunes. We therefore find that the 
first and larger of the two orchestras reinforced by the solo 
quartet plays the opening bars of Ex. 2 and is answered by Ex. 3 
on the second orchestra. This constitutes the second idea of this 

What is a fantasia? The fantasia of Tallis's day was the fore 
runner of the fugue in that a thread of theme was enunciated and 
taken up by other parts, then dropped in favour of another akin 


to it which was similarly treated. None of these pieces of melody 
was developed further as in a fugue. The scheme is derived from 
the madrigal. Vaughan Williams's fantasia is not of the strict 
Elizabethan sort but it does proceed in sections of which the 
material is inter-related. There is however very little imitative 
writing in it. Antiphony is preferred to contrapuntal imitation 
but the basic form is madrigalian. 

What corresponds to the third couplet of a madrigal is a new 
melodic idea given out by the viola solo: 

New, but derived from the second part of Talhs's tune. It is 
furthermore a member of the family of themes associated in the 
composer's mind with The Pilgrims Progress. It is treated in double 
antiphony from the two orchestras and is repeated, as all well- 
behaved tunes are repeated, by the solo violin. The three forces, 
solo quartet and two string orchestras (each complete with 
double-bass), now develop a web of great complexity in which 
figure x of Ex. 4 is much used in alternation with derivatives 
from Ex. 3. The three forces coalesce for the climax of this 
development section, in which the little figure y of Ex. 4 becomes 

After a short section, as it might be a homophonic line in a 
madrigal, molto adagio, in which strongly flavoured triads in 
root position E major, E flat minor, B minor, B flat minor, and 
F minor are set in powerful juxtaposition, a return is made to the 
first presentation of the opening phrase of Ex. 2. But the recapitula 
tion is not a mere repetition. Both orchestras drop into a 
tremolando sur la touche and the main business is carried on in a 
duet between solo violin and solo viola thus: 


But as the tune gets under way in the solo violin the orchestral 
violins join in. The second idea (Ex. 3) is also recalled and richly 
harmonized. There is a sudden hush and by way of coda the 
solo violin soars on a phrase of similar shape to Ex. 6. The work 
ends on a chord of G major. Its main tonality is certainly G, but 
the fluctuating inflexions of flat and sharp, the false relations of 
the very first bar prove that the fantasia owes not only its theme 
and the outlines of its form but its harmonic 'neo-modality 5 to its 
Tudor father. 

If a detailed dissection seems to represent this fantasia as so 
called because of the modern connotation of the word as some 
thing wayward and bound by no formal conventions, the work 
in performance gives the opposite impression, that it is almost 
seamless. Its organic unity it owes to the close congruity of all its 
thematic material. But it is also a fact that the composer worked 
over it in two revisions, in 1913 and 1919. The work in its 
definitive form has the solidity and grandeur of a cathedral, to 
which its strains seem to belong by a natural affinity. It has passed 
into the repertory of all the great orchestras of the world. Its 
intense Englishness has been no bar to international under 
standing, whatever may have been said along those lines about 
other of Vaughan Williams's compositions. 

Partita for Double String Orchestra 

The Partita for Double String Orchestra is a kte revision (1948) 
of what had first appeared as a Double String Trio in D minor, 


which had its first performance by the Menges Quartet and their 
associates in January 1939. Although it was careful not to call 
itself a sextet, its antiphony of two trios was never clear enough 
to impress itself upon the ear. It appears to have had some revision 
in order to strengthen it, but still in 1942, at a National Gallery 
concert to celebrate the composer's seventieth birthday, the 
scoring did not seem to be completely effective, and the pro 
phetic view was expressed that the work had even then probably 
not reached its final form. It was played three times during the 
National Gallery war-time concerts. 

The final revision was more drastic and was designed to make 
the antiphony clearer along the lines that had proved satisfactory 
in the eighteenth-century concerto grosso by an equilibrium of 
unequal forces. The two string orchestras work to a deliberate 
handicapping: the first orchestra is without double-basses, and the 
second orchestra is to be quite twice the strength of the first. 
There are no second violins in either orchestra. The four move 
ments, Prelude, Scherzo Ostinato, Intermezzo, and Fantasia, are 
surely a combination without parallel in the history of the suite. 
The second movement perhaps owes something to Hoist (in the 
St. Paul's Suite); the Intermezzo is inscribed 'Homage to Henry 
Hall*. Syncopations, Scotch snaps, shifted accents, cross-rhythms 
abound not only in the movement dedicated to the jazz dance- 
band leader, but throughout. Indeed the starting-point of the 
whole work in the composer's mind would seem to be more 
rhythmic than textural hence the long search for a satisfactory 

The Prelude starts off with a grunted Scotch snap, which is apt 
to recur whenever in any part a further kick of impetus is needed. 
The first tune has a less snappy snap, more like one of PurcelTs 
trochaic measures: 

Ex. 1. Andante tranquillo 
* " Viola Solo 

P cantabile 

The movement is loosely constructed, a true Prelude, founded on 
these two ideas, but diversified by an occasional burst of semi- 


quavers or an irregular gruppetto, and leading without a break 
into the Scherzo. 

The ostinato of this second movement consists of only four 
notes, as does the similar example in the St. Paul's Suite, but they 
are ingeniously contrived to give a maximum both of repetition 
and variety: 


Presto Violins fcofl sord) 

Below it a bass proceeds scalewise downwards by the same three 
notes, FED; soon after a melody, equally rudimentary, is thrown 
upwards, F B flat C D, which is thereafter imitated, or extended 
or chromaricized. As the texture thickens the second orchestra 
plays heavily thrummed chords which lead to a change of key 
from D minor to D major. This is the sign for the ostinato to 
adopt a new form, more like a moto perpetuo. There is a pursuit 
through a number of keys without let-up of the new ostinato but 
with fragments of melody flying off. We have had what is the 
usual two sections of a normal scherzo and we now have its trio, 
built on Ex. 2 in augmentation. It is sufficient to round the move 
ment off with a mere allusion to Ex. i. 

The sincerest form of homage is imitation and Mr. Henry Hall 
is saluted in the Intermezzo dedicated to him with this pattern of 
rhythm and accent: 

Ex. 3. Andante con moto 

pkyed by the second orchestra. Delayed accents are a feature too 
of the melodies which sprout above this figuration in the first 
orchestra. Again the texture thickens, the first violin of the 
concertino orchestra finally breaking into running semiquavers, 
but the first idea recurs so as to create the ternary form proper to 


an Intermezzo. The rhythm of Ex. 3 had not been abandoned in 
the middle section but it had suffered some minor modifications; 
it reasserts itself at the fortissimo juncture where the first of the 
melodies makes its unmistakable return. But the reprise is short 
and quickly loses weight to make a characteristically quiet 

The plan of the final Fantasia is a series of short sections in 
which different but congruous ideas follow each other, as in the 
Elizabethan fantasia, but without the quasi-fugal texture which 
that early form of instrumental chamber music borrowed from 
the madrigal. The unifying rhythmic germ is the alternative 
distribution of six quavers in a bar of 3/4 time, which continually 
breaks down into 6/8, as in the opening bars thus: 


A , Allegro 

p cresc. 

Note the dynamic marking of this motive. The first section intro 
duces rushing semiquavers, the second something that starts like 
a bit of melody, the third uses this melody for counterpoint; in 
the fourth semiquavers return; in the fifth the basic idea of Ex. 4 
is emphatically recalled, as also in the seventh it is recalled more 
briefly; the sixth is a more melodious and euphonious version of 
the pattern; the eighth section is canonical between the orchestras; 
number nine is calm, number ten entwines it with off-the-beat 
pizzicato chords, an effect which is intensified in section eleven 
and maintained against the reassertion of Ex. 4 in the twelfth 
section. The thirteenth and fourteenth sections are virtual re 
capitulations of the second and third sections; in the fourteenth 
the six parts are busy going their own ways and dragging a short 
phrase across the bar lines; in the fifteenth a reaction sets in and the 
same phrase literally pulls itself together; in the sixteenth, seven 
teenth, and eighteenth sections we are back with the fundamental 
rhythmic alternation made plain in a sort of homophony. The 
nineteenth and last section is only an expiring coda. Fantasia is 
thus a non-committal name for a set of variations, that would like 


to call itself a passacaglia but dare not for the strictness implied in 
that austere term. 

The work is short (twenty minutes) and a light-weight. 
Because of its concentration on rhythmic interest it is exhilarating 
to hear at the very opposite pole of artistic purpose and effect 
to the Tallis Fantasia, with which it is comparable in layout. 

Works for Solo Instruments 
with Orchestra 


VAUGHAN WILLIAMS'S works for solo instruments with orchestra 
are all on a fairly small scale. The viola is content with a suite; the 
Oboe and the Piano and the Violin Concertos have three move 
ments apiece but are still deliberate in their avoidance of anything 
like the nineteenth-century conception of a concerto. The violin 
has also a miniature concerto in the shape of The Lark Ascending, 
which is described as a Romance. The Violin Concerto in D 
minor was originally called Concerto Accademico as an act of 
defiance against all the big-bow-wow concertos from the Emperor 
on to Rachmaninov, or, in terms of the violin, from Beethoven 
to Sibelius via Mendelssohn, Max Bruch, Brahms, and Tchaikov 
sky. The Concerto Accademico is all that those things are not 
it derives straight from the eighteenth-century concertos of 
Handel and Bach. 

The Piano Concerto exists in two forms, having been revised 
for two players in the solo part for a St. Cecilia concert in 1946, 
when it was played by Miss Phyllis Sellick and Mr. Cyril Smith 
in the revised form. The Oboe Concerto of 1944 is a light-weight, 
as is indicated in the titles of the three constituent movements, and 
is scored for strings only. The Romance for harmonica and 
orchestra was prompted by the extraordinary virtuosity of Mr. 
Larry Adler upon that humble instrument, the mouth-organ. It 
was first performed in New York in May 1952 and introduced to 
England at a Promenade Concert the same summer. 


The Lark Ascending 

The violin was Vaughan Williams's own instrument in youth. 
In the autobiographical pages which the composer contributed to 
Hubert Foss's book he rektes that he began to learn theory at 
six and the violin at seven. He was then being taught the piano 
'which I never could play' and the violin 'which was my musical 
salvation*. In due rime, which in historic fact was 1914, he repaid 
what he owed to the instrument in the composition which is 
distinctively his own and like nothing else in music Beethoven's 
two Romances for violin and orchestra are the nearest parallels 
The Lark Ascending, described as a Romance for violin and 
orchestra, redolent of the English countryside and having a motto 
from Meredith. The lark is to England what the Nachtigal is to 
Germany; he is a blither bird with a less throaty tone; he is more 
over a daylight not an evening bird. 'Romance' for Vaughan 
Williams is devoid of erotic connotation: the nearest he comes to 
the conventional connotation of that elastic word is when he calls 
The Poisoned Kiss a romantic extravaganza. The lark may be 
calling to his mate but it sounds more like jo/ de vivre on a spring 
morning with a slight haze in the air. 

The Lark Ascending was written for Marie Hall, a violinist who 
had a pre-eminent position in the concert world during the first 
decade of the present century she had actually had instruction 
from Elgar at one time but was ultimately a pupil of Sevcik in 
Prague. She introduced the piece which Vaughan Williams 
dedicated to her to London on 14 June 1921. It was subsequently 
played a good deal by Miss Jelly d'Aranyi. It is available in two 
scorings, one for double woodwind (including horns), one for 
single woodwind the oboe is single in both versions. It was 
composed in 1914 but waited for more than the duration of the 
war for performance. The literary motto and the tide come from 
Meredith's Poems and Lyrics of the Joys of Earth. The lines quoted 
are these: 

He rises and begins to round 

He drops the silver chain of sound 


Of many links without a break 
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake. 

For singing till his heaven fills 
J Tis love of earth that he instils 
And ever winging up and up, 
Our valley is his golden cup, 
And he the wine which overflows 
To lift us with him as he goes. 

Till lost on his aerial wings 

In light, and then the fancy sings. 

The beginning and the end of the work are descriptive and 
correspond programmatically to the first and third quotations 
from the poem. The onomatopoeia of bird song are not frowned 
on by the purists, and cuckoos and nightingales are common from 
Handel to Beethoven and beyond. This lark is a pentatonic bird 
with a propensity for leaving out the third and becoming 
tetratonic. His key note seems to be D but the orchestra sounds a 
hazy chord of the ninth on E which it holds for half of the un 
measured cadenza with which the work opens. After this intro 
duction the orchestra resumes its chord of the ninth on E and 
adds some swaying harmonies that pivot on it while the soloist 
propounds the first main tune: 



p cantabile 

The woodwind has little to say but interjects snatches derived 
either from the tune Ex. I or its string accompaniment. The flute 
adds a chirrup or two and variants of Ex. I rise from the fields, 
while the lark goes off into the sky on another but shorter cadenza 
founded on the same four notes as before. The cadence is a drop 
of a third, the key still vague it might be D Dorian, a contingent 
B minor or a suppressed G major (which has the support of the 


key signature). The second tune and its harmony is equally 
indecisive between C major and G major this time: 

The woodwind deals for the most part with this idea, though not 
to the complete exclusion of the soloist or the violins. 

In the next section the time has changed back to 6/8, but the 
solo music is very florid and the orchestral texture based on a new 



which sprouts many varied tails. This is the most animated section, 
as though someone had disturbed a whole bushful of birds! 
The lark's personal trills enclose this agitated bird-song. Calm is 
restored by the brief reappearance of the section based on Ex. 2. 
The main recapitulation however is based on Ex. i My scored 
with some lovely luscious thirds in the woodwind rather as 
though the nightingales or their English equivalents, the black 
birds, had joined in. The harmony ultimately comes to rest on its 
favourite chord on E and the lark on his aerial wings is lost in 
light. He reaches a D in altissimo and then drops again his minor 
third on to B. Yes, by now he has certainly reached G major. 

Violin Concerto 

The writing of consecutive fifths in students' harmony has 
always been regarded as the primary, if also the most common, 
offence against academic propriety, like false concords in Latin 
prose. The original tide of the violin concerto as Concerto 
Accademico which is full of consecutive fifths was therefore 
regarded as cocking a snook at academic music, the word 
'academic' carrying the usual but unwarrantedly pejorative sense. 


At this time in Bis career (1925) Vaughan "Williams was in the full 
flush of writing what the academics called 'Back-to-Hucbald* 
harmony, and this concerto does suggest both organum and 
faburden exhumed from the Middle Ages and turned to modern 
usages, just as the medieval modes have been revived to make 
neo-modal music. It is however more probable that the title 
'accademico' was adopted by the composer for the reason already 
suggested in order to prevent any illusions on the part of the 
unwary that this was a concerto of the Horatius-keeping-the- 
bridge type, which was the kind exclusively written in the 
nineteenth century. Vaughan Williams calls his ballet a masque 
and his opera a morality for precisely the same reason to save 
misunderstanding of what will be found inside the covers. 

What is found inside the covers is neo-Bach a sturdy 2/4 
rhythm and figuration reminiscent of Bach's A minor Violin 
Concerto for the opening ritornello of the first movement, for 
the second an ostinato-like bass with an arabesque solo above it 
on the lines of the slow movement of Bach's E major Violin 
Concerto, and a finale like a jig complicated with cross-rhythms 
similar to the finale of the fifth Brandenburg Concerto. The 
accompaniment is limited to strings as in both of Bach's violin 

The forms of the movements though not regular are clear 
enough. The first movement is not unitary with a recurrent 
dominating ritornello as in Bach but a rudimentary sonata form 
in which the second subject is recapitulated before the first. The 
slow movement is in a symmetrical ternary form. The finale is 
founded on the old binary type of dance form, with the first part 
marked with an. old-fashioned double-bar repeat. Cadenzas occur 
in all movements, those in the first and last being marked to be 
played in strict time although the orchestra stands still on a held 
note and bar lines disappear, those in the slow movement on the 
other hand being marked 'senza misura' while the orchestra is 
either silent or stationary. 

The narrative therefore of what happens is this. In the first 
movement soloist and orchestra start off on what looks like a 
Bach ritornello in which there are three constituent ideas, two of 


which make play with repeated notes. The key is D minor. After 
this statement comes the first cadenza followed by a reduced 
counter-statement of the first subject. The key changes to E minor 
and the solo gives out a tune 

p Uggiero 

which is promptly picked up by the viola while the soloist reverts 
to the repeated note figure of the first subject. Ex. i is repeated by 
the first violins, to which the soloist offers a balancing phrase in 
double stops. A double bar marks the end of the exposition and 
the beginning of a development section in which, as in Bach, the 
constituents of the first subject appear, though there is a self- 
contained episode based on 



which is repeated several times over. There are two-bar incursions 
from the first subject, which behaves like a ritornello. This section 
of the movement ends with a cadenza based on a gapped scale. 
At the recapitulation the key returns firmly to D minor and the 
second subject, Ex. 2, is taken, double stops and all, before the first 
subject asserts itself. There is a short presto coda. 

If the consecutives have been the fifths of ancient organum in 
the first movement they have now advanced a century or two to 
faburden and appear in thirds or chords of the sixth. The key is 
G minor and the cello leads off with a solo accompanied by these 
reiterated chords, which form the kind of one-bar ostinato found 
in Bach's slow movements. The soloist enters belatedly with an 
arabesque. The key changes to G major (though the signature is 
C) and the same scheme of things is worked out in the new 
tonality with the reiterated chords now become triads. The total 
is the conventional sixteen bars with the interpolation of an 


unconventional cadenza of one bar 'senza misura'. The middle 
section gives the soloist a tune 



which is quite capable of flowering into more arabesques when a 
cello solo takes it over. The figuration has now changed to six 
insistent quavers to the bar which before long perform the 
extraordinary manoeuvre of descending through a whole-tone 
scale from A to A. A climax is precipitated thereby which, as it 
dies away, turns back to G minor and a kind of recapitulation, 
in which however it is Ex. 3, the second subject again, that is 
repeated first. The first subject somewhat abbreviated has the last 
word after a second cadenza. 

The third movement begins, as it means to go on, in a cross- 



The theme is derived, in part at least, from Hugh the Drover or 
so the composer says in a footnote, but it is not easy to discover 
the whereabouts of the quotation in the opera. The dropping 
intervals are like the opening bars of the overture and the 6/8 
rhythm is like the hubbub before and during the boxing match, 
but the acknowledgement seems an excess of scruple. The second 
theme is in the Aeolian mode and in trochaic metre with a balanc 
ing phrase of a broader nature: 



The two ideas are shared between soloist and orchestra and 
worked together. Then comes a double bar marking a repeat. At 
the second time the soloist has a theme derived from the triplets of 
Ex. 4, against which the orchestra launches in imitational entries 
another theme in cross-rhythm: 


This is new matter, but for the continuation of this binary move 
ment (the second part is not repeated) the material of the first 
part is recalled, first Ex. 5 and its concomitant and then Ex. 4. 
With a high trill on the solo instrument comes a midway 
cadenza, unaccompanied but in strict time, triplets in moto 
perpetuo fashion. When the orchestra obtrudes it does so in the 
trochaic tune. Other bits of tune are recalled too, as though to 
sum the whole concerto up, but in the end the soloist is left 
supported only by a pedal D to play another cadenza sul tasto in 
strict time but finally in an augmentation that brings the music to 
a quiet standstill. 

Piano Concerto 

The Piano Concerto is the only one of the works in this group, 
in which solo instruments are combined with orchestra, that can 
be described as a major work. Foss classes it with the symphonies 
and when I first wrote about it in my former 'Pilgrim' book 
let I prefaced my analysis with a short essay on mysticism in 
music, because I discerned in this concerto affinities with late 
Beethoven and saw in it an example of the composer's probe of 
ultimate reality. It is prophetic in the way the symphonies are 
prophetic. Since then die composer himself has defined the object 
of art as c to stretch out to the ultimate realities through the 
medium of beauty'. This concerto, though smaller in scale than 
the symphonies, seem to be engaged in precisely that metaphysical 


quest, as Beethoven also was searching in the sonatas and quartets 
of the third period. The affinity with Beethoven is technical as 
well as spiritual, in that the concluding fugue is more like 
Beethoven's than Bach's fugues, and the way in which the 
various sections of the last two movements grow out of each 
other has some resemblance to the organic structure of the later 

In externals, however, notably in its pianism, the concerto is 
not descended from Beethoven. The opening Toccata is a rever 
sion to a more primitive form than Beethoven ever used in a 
symphonic work. There is not much passage-work; the arpeggio 
beloved of the romantics, Schumann, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, 
is sparingly used. But the pianoforte can do other things besides 
those rippling cascades, those brilliant staccato octaves, those 
double thirds and sixths, those imitation cantabile melodies which 
were exploited so well by the nineteenth century. It can play solid 
chords, especially it can play fourths and fifths and triads; it can 
give an edge to the harmonic and orchestral bass such as nothing 
else can (cf. its use in Benedidte and in Sinfonia Antarticd]\ it 
can reiterate single notes or sequences or chords (see Exx. i and 
3 below); it can hammer out progressions with alternate hands 
(this device romantics certainly did employ); it can, in fact, 
abandon its cursive style altogether and take to something more 
tingling and percussive. This is the twentieth-century style of 
pianoforte writing, and can be found in many modern works for 
pianoforte. Vaughan Williams expresses his own idiom in it, and 
in this, to superficial appearance, most unpianistic concerto, which 
nevertheless demands the element of virtuosity essential to any 
concerto, he has in his own terms seemed to review the whole 
history of pianism. In the Toccata he looks back (mutatis mutandis 
of course) to the jangle of the harpsichord; in the Romanza he 
reverts to something like the melody and passage-work of the 
romantics; and in the Finale he opens out the dynamic possibilities 
of the pianoforte. But the work as a whole looks forward and not 
backwards, and is addressed to us now living in the language of 
today. It is scored for normal full orchestra without harp and 
with an optional organ part. 



Consider it now in technical detail. The Toccata ('allegro 
moderate') opens with a crashing tonic pedal in which the 
pianoforte joins while immediately starting its toccata-like figure: 


Allegro mod&rato 

et simile 

The pulse, be it noted, is in septuple time. The key professes to 
be C major, and the B flat in the first bar is only an incidental 
result of the pattern of perfect fourths, but it is to be a flat kind of 
C major all the same. After two bars in which strong dominant 
harmony is spelled out over the tonic pedal (as in Beethoven), 
a mounting figure uses different rungs of the ladder: 


Vln & Cello 

mf marcaio 


But stability is regained and the pianoforte changes its figure: 

The pace becomes poco animato, and the implications of what 
has now been stated begin to spread themselves out in variously 
subdivided figures, and the key to perform sundry balancing feats, 
leaning over to D major and back to A flat. Thai as you were a 
more elaborate restatement of all this. Ex. 3, however, is now 
more acute chords of E major over a racy C major bass. After 


this second statement comes a development section in which the 
organization of the 7/8 bar oscillates from 4 + 3 to 3 + 4 and back 
again, and in which there is more movement all over the orchestra, 
though it is to be noted that it is all movement with the pianoforte 
and not counter-movement there is hardly a line of counter 
point in the whole toccata. At the climax the orchestra gives up, 
the tempo broadens to largamente, and the pianoforte begins Ex. i 
again by itself, only expanded on to four staves to cover a greater 
range of pianoforte tone and impact. Impact is important through 
out the concerto. The older writers who gave their soloists 
broken chords and scale and arpeggio passages were seeking a 
cursive effect: the momentum of this concerto is increased by the 
incessant impact of scores of hammers on a hundred wires. The 
orchestra is silent only for a few bars, and rounds off the move 
ment on mixed tonic and dominant harmony in which the 
dominant is now the stronger element, the final chord being 
rooted not on C but on D. 

A cadenza 'senza misura', a single-line ripple of notes which 
deliberately spells instability of key, leads into the second move 
ment, Romanza (lento). The signature now contains one sharp, 
and a B natural is reiterated over the ripple, which has now 
descended to the bass but is still uncertain whether to be C major, 
C mixolydian, F major, D flat major, A flat minor, or whatever, 
each by turns and nothing long but always at variance with the 
right hand, which by now has evolved its single note into a 


J J'lj. ij'J J J'iJ ;jj \.>T' f |J J 

When the flute takes up this tune the pianoforte continues the 
rippling accompaniment and the writing is here more like con 
ventionally pianistic writing. But the orchestra begins to har 
monize the tune (Ex. 4) in fifths and parallel triads, of course, 
such as come naturally to Vaughan Williams and the mood 
becomes like that which is familiar to us in Job. With the 
opening of the middle section fpoco piu mosso') this mood of 


sublime contemplation emerges fully from the preceding music 




Strings & Pfic. 

The simple beauty of this heavenly strain can be no stumbling 
block to any listener, however harshly some of the more un 
relenting discords of the first movement and chromatic clashes of 
the last fall upon his ear. The pianoforte, it may be noted, now 
performs another function not common in concertos, though 
found in Beethoven: the left hand descends to the bass and the 
two are kept wide apart, lining in with bright clear tone like a 
celesta's the containing outlines of the picture, giving it depth 
and transparency in the French manner, and playing plain two- 
part counterpoint bare of all harmonic emphasis. The first part 
returns with the flute tune (Ex. 4), now given to the oboe, while 
the accompanying harmony, although thicker in actual notes, is 
still tenuous in effect, owing to height in pitch and other devices. 
At the end the woodwind are still playing counter-subjects as 
solos, when among them, as the last murmur of strings and 
pianoforte dies away, the oboe lights as though by accident upon 


|r|T |y 

From this germ the whole of the Finale is to come. 

Although the concerto is written in three well-defined move 
ments, each is linked to the next, and since the last of them is in 
two sections a Fugue and a Finale alia Tedesca, with appropriate 
breaks for cadenzas it easily happens that at a first hearing the ear 
may momentarily lose its sense of direction before the end is 
reached. But it is really quite simple, since its ground plan is 
clearly drawn. The oboe and viola, playing at the end of the 
Romanza, have their little snatch of chromatic tune (Ex. 6) taken 


out of their mouths by an uncouth interruption of trombones 
playing a curt version of the same chromatic descending figure. 
Strings and wood immediately take up this challenge first in a 
little phrase suggestive of the counter-subject (Ex. 7 b) to come, 
and finally in a wild upwards rush. 

Subject and counter-subject are announced by the pianoforte 
against a high D sustained tremolando by the violins for twenty- 
one bars. It might be described as an inverted dominant pedal, for 
the key of this movement, though very elusive, is more G than 
C. Its first full cadence ends on an emphatic G, as does the final 
cadence at the end of the work the last page even bears the 
signature of one sharp, but it seems more appropriate to speak of 
this chromatic movement as being 'based on G' rather than as 'in 
the key of G'. We may perhaps go so far as to say that the tonic 
is G, and leave it at that. The end, when it comes, gains something 
in emphasis from the wrench with which the movement breaks 
off on G instead of proceeding in orthodox manner to a full 
re-establishment of C major the professed key of the concerto. 
But key is not important in this Finale. 

Now for the subject and counter-subject: 


When every section of the orchestra has had its say about the 
subject, it is inverted and submitted to a process of development, 
descending and ascending forms being worked together. The 
ascending form finally leads to an enormous pedal point on D, 
the organ being requisitioned to provide foundation-tone for a 
tremendous stretto. This summing-up of the fugue breaks off to 
allow the pianist a huge chordal cadenza, which in its turn leads 


into the Finale proper a waltz built on the fugue subject. The full 
orchestra opens the ball; the second strain is introduced by the 
pianoforte solo, and is made out of (t) of Ex. 7, permanent 
counter-theme in ordinary to the subject, which has already 
appeared in the preface and in the fugue immediately after the 
exposition. The two themes (a) and (6) are now worked together 
by pianoforte and orchestra in combination. The pianist next 
enunciates as a third strain the subject (a) augmented into a 
cantabile version of itself, but again the orchestra soon joins in, 
and the whole thing begins to expand. After the climax the piano 
forte has another cadenza, which includes reference to the first 
two movements and gathers the whole work together into a kind 
of summary. A quotation from Bax's Third Symphony stood in 
the score at the end of the cadenza, but as the reference seemed to 
have a personal rather than a musical significance, it was removed 
after the first performance. Ten bars of orchestral ritornello serve 
to punctuate the concerto with its final full stop. 

The soloist to whom the Piano Concerto was dedicated, and 
by whom it was first played at a B.B.C. concert on i February 
I 933 5 was Miss Harriet Cohen. Rearrangement of the solo part 
for two pianos has increased its effectiveness. For the impact 
which is a peculiar feature of the Toccata is increased one must 
not say doubled for Weber's kw in psychology is a kw of 
diminishing returns in aesthetics. The four staves required at its 
climax suggest a doubling of the keyboards, while in the Finale 
the complex texture can be more advantageously exploited by 
four than by two hands. 

The main differences between the two versions may be sum- 
marized thus. 

Toccata. The martelkto passage Ex. I is pkyed with doubled 
octaves in the two-piano version thus doubling the impact, The 
bass line of Ex. 3 is reinforced with an additional octave. Arpeggio 
figures are spread out. The repeated chords of Ex. 3 are, when 
restated in E major, intensified by the extra piano adding a 
chorckl shake. At the beginning of the development section the 
difficult leap from big chord to the toccata passage is saved by a 
division of labour between the two pianists. Similarly the passage 


on four staves is more effectively played by four hands than two. 
The cadenza is reserved for one pianist only. 

Romanza. The arpeggios are consigned to one piano and are 
reinforced by a sustained chord in the bass of the other piano 
which plays the melody. In the middle section when Ex. 5 is 
played there is naturally nothing for the second piano to do and 
it remains silent until in the interests of abstract justice it under 
takes the balancing section in D major at 21. At 22 the first piano 
resumes but before 23 is reached the second piano has undertaken 
the chords which it plays in octaves, leaving the arpeggios to 
number i. At 24 where the orchestra has a recapitulation of Ex. 4 
the division of labour makes a more effective layout of the 
arpeggio of E possible. What in the one-piano version is an 
Albert! bass becomes in the two-piano version a true arpeggio 
made more piquant by the addition of the supertonic to the tonic 
chord. The consecutive fourths are left for the other piano to deal 
with. The conversion of the Alberti bass to arpeggio continues to 
the end and the texture is correspondingly fortified by some 
stuffing in the middle which is impossible while one soloist has to 
grapple with the extremes of the keyboard. 

Fugue. Octave doublings are made easier by four hands and 
extra doublings made possible. Orchestral statement of the subject 
can also be given an edge by doublings on the second piano. 
In the martellato episode heavy chords are thrown in to give 
extra weight and at the inversion of the subject both pianos 
launch it with extra force. In the cadenza the use of both pianos 
enables the big chords to be doubled and widely spaced over the 
whole range, and in the A major passage at the end there is a good 
deal of extra figuration inserted which seems to inflate the volume 
of piano tone for the crescendo which leads into the 

Finale alia Tedesca. Here the solo work is divided antiphonally, 
or extra figuration provided; martellato passages are doubled at 
the octave, and additional bass provided. But the biggest change 
in the whole of the revised version is the provision of a new solo 
for the two pianos between 49 and 50 in the old score. The 
cadenza which shortly follows and was in the old score set out on 
four staves now appears on six, and the great chordal passages can 


be executed with less strain. The orchestral ritornello is removed 
and the work ends swiftly with full chords from both pianos and 
a light string accompaniment. 

Suite for Viola 

The exceptional quality of Mr. Lionel Tertis's viola playing 
has been a source of inspiration to more than one modern English 
composer. Miihlfeld's clarinet drew from Brahms four great 
works for that instrument. Tertis's viola, if it has not elicited 
anything so outstandingly great as the Clarinet Quintet, has 
prompted an even krger number of works from several com 
posers, among whom Vaughan "Williams takes his place with 
the suite which he dedicates to Tertis. It was written for a 
medium-sized orchestra two each of all the wind except the 
oboe, no heavy brass, but harp, celesta, and percussion but is 
also playable with the composer's own piano arrangement. It 
was first performed with orchestra under Malcolm Sargent at 
the Courtauld-Sargent Concert of 12 and 13 November 1934. It 
was published in the piano version in the summer of 1936. 

The suite consists of eight short pieces, taking together twenty- 
five minutes in performance, which are organized into a unity not 
by identity of key, nor by traditional order for they are not all in 
dance forms but by arrangement into three groups. In perform 
ance the listener is not actively aware of any special significance 
in the arrangement or of any particular cohesion within the 
groups. But the existence of such a ground plan undoubtedly 
contributes to the feeling of obvious rightness and natural sequence 
of which the listener is very positively aware. 

Group I 

Group I consists of a Prelude in C, a Carol in E flat, and a 
Christmas Dance in G, and its unity is emotional the pre 
dominance of the Christmas spirit. The Prelude, superficially 
recalling Bach's First from the Forty-Eight and Debussy's Dr. 
Gradus ad Parnassum, is not so cool and formal an affair as either. 


It breaks into pastoral rhythm in the middle section, which is in 
warm A major tonality, and the markings direct increasing 
animation throughout. It establishes for the rest of the suite a 
preoccupation with rhythmic ingenuities and varieties. Starting 
with arpeggios on the solo viola over a comfortable tonic pedal 
on C, a counter-tune on the violas of the orchestra makes a simple 
statement. A certain amount of interweaving follows with the 
addition of a decorative semiquaver figure, before the new pastoral 
idea is introduced. The viola canters in 9/8 against the plain 3/4 of 
the accompaniment and vice versa the alternation and crossing 
of rhythms has begun. After the best ternary models, the Prelude 
reverts to C major and simplicity. A coda still in C reasserts the 
pastoral idea, while the viola sees that the arpeggios are not 
The Carol begins 


Andante con mo to 

y , >i r 

1 1_J 


-Vf 1 =* * 


Solo VM>U P semplice 

This tune, nine bars long, is simply though affectionately harmon 
ized. At the end of the verse it is given to the strings while the 
viola plays a quaver counterpoint to it, all pianissimo. Verse 3 
is more robust and is a variation, not a repetition, of the original 
melody. Verse 4 is a free canon between the flute and the solo 
instrument at a bar's distance. Three bars of scales in contrary and 
gently discordant motion close the angelic song without bringing 
it to earth. 

The Christmas Dance is earthy enough, and rightly. A few bare 
fifths give the fiddler his tuning, and he draws a few chords across 
the strings. The rhythm is an alternating 3/4 and 6/8. This, 
together with another alternation derived from the fiddler's fifths, 
gives the dance its animation and character. There is a snatch of 
melody like a peal of bells announced and pursued by the viola, 
which in the middle section develops into another carol, but the 
dance ends with a stamping of feet and the violist sawing chords 
like mad. 


Group II 

The second group consists of two pieces only, a Ballad in C 
major and a Moto Perpetuo in C minor. Tlie kind of C major 
employed by Vaughan Williams is determined harmonically thus: 



** Strings 
consord. ** 


1 ,]. 

These are the actual opening bars before the entry of the soloist, 
but this kind of harmony is to be found in one form or another 
as the basis of many of the accompaniments to folk-songs and to 
the lyrics in Sir John in Love and The Poisoned Kiss. The tune of this 
ballad, the most impassioned movement in the suite, is a char 
acteristic 'gapped' tune, 

Ex. 3. 

A Andante tranqmllo 


Solo Viola/) 

and from the sequence of CD G A, with the occasional amplifica 
tion of an E, the last section and its cadenza-like rhapsody for the 
soloist are built. 

Another gapped figure, which is introduced as an accompani 
ment, is promoted in the middle section to the task of carrying 
on the main narrative. Here it is subjected to the rhythmic alterna 
tion of 6/8 and 3/4 which was so conspicuous a feature of Group 
I. This middle section is marked 'allegro non troppo' (qualified 
by a 'tranquillo' in brackets) but the rest of the movement is 
slow and there is ample space in the final section for the soloist's 

The loose wrist of a fiddler's bow arm is the perfect instrument 
for that particular form of hurry and bustle called the Moto 
Perpetuo. But the viola is not so nimble a runner as the violin, 
and there is something rather hoarse about its voice when it has to 
speak quickly. So that this movement has in it an element of the 
grotesque. This ungainly effect is heightened by the irregular fell 


of the accents again this alternation between compound double 
and simple triple time both in the solo part and more wilfully 
in the accompaniment. It hurries along right enough, however, 
helped now by a snatch of tune on the flute that for a fraction of a 
second makes one think of the Irish melody 'Avenging and 
Bright', now by a strong staccato bass, now by chords falling 
regularly every two beats across the bar accents of triple measure 
(as in the famous passages in Brahms's Schicksablied). The solo part 
sways across the strings, then takes to double stopping and chords, 
then back to simple semiquavers unaccompanied to work it up 
all over again. The soloist does not pause for a semiquaver 
throughout, nor does he give any note that he plays either more 
or less than one semiquaver's value; and he stops abruptly fortis 
simo without any broadening at the end of an animando passage. 
The two pieces of the centre group are thus well contrasted in 
character and speed and are united by a common tonic of C. 

Group III 

The third group has the unity of the old-fashioned suite in that 
it is a sequence of dance tunes. Allemandes and minuets, however, 
do not appear in it. Musette, which in the older writers sometimes 
appeared as a trio to a minuet, has here an independent status. Its 
drone bass is not rigidly maintained, but a tonic pedal of E flat is 
fairly persistent, varied by a move to the dominant or to another 
key. There is a change to G major ('poco animato'), to form a 
middle section, but the lullabyish character of the piece is not 
disturbed thereby. 

The second dance is entitled 'Polka Melancolique', which is 
something of an oxymoron. However, composers have taken over 
simple dance forms before now and worked their will on them 
with profit to the art of music. The contradiction in the title is 
borne out in the dance, which is rather clod-hopping for a polka 
and too sophisticated for simple-minded practitioners of that gay 
dance. The feeling of the music is nearer to twentieth-century 
jazz than to the prancings of the Victorian ball-room, and there is 
in the 'poco piu mosso' middle section a definite use made of 
modern syncopation. So that melancolique means 'sentimental', or 


in the case of the solo instrument 'emotionally excited', since the 
viola lets itself go towards the end in a series of cadenza passages. 
The old antithesis of three against two persists, and there are some 
sharp contrasts of key. The main tonality is D, but it drops into 
B flat minor, then picks itself up by some brusque transitions into 
C sharp minor, back to D minor then on again to F sharp major 
and minor in rapid succession, then after some sliding chromatics 
which make a momentary recovery into F sharp, it reaches D 
major and so home to D minor. Which is indeed all very melan- 
coliqiie for a polka. 

The Galop ('allegro molto') is in F sharp minor. It starts off 
pitter-patter, two in a bar with the viola playing A on its open 
and its stopped strings: 

Ex. 4. ... , 

, Allegro molto 

But even here the old antagonism of the triplets reasserts itself 
and there is a long middle section given over to unequivocal 6/8 
time. Finally, however, the duple principle prevails and the last 
pages are no less unequivocally duple without admixture of any 
cross current. The Galop speeds along on this silly, charming tune 


and stops with a lather of violins and a crisp unison statement of 
a in augmentation cut off sharp with a snap on the side-drum. 

The scoring of this suite contains points of interest and con 
tributes a good deal to its beauty and its musical value. Just as it is 
easy in discussion to emphasize form against matter or vice versa 
while still trying to remember that each conditions the other and 
both are inseparable, so composers seem to invite attention to a 
similar antithesis between the colouring and the substance of their 
music. The old fallacy that Brahms could not score, based on the 


fact that what is prominent in his symphonies is the substance of 
his thought rather than the presentation of it in brilliant colours, 
is now exploded and people realize that his scoring is appropriate 
to the substance of his composition. Yet the fallacy contained this 
much truth: that emphasis may be laid in varying degrees upon 
the colour-saturation of any particular work. Respighi's tone- 
poems, for instance, from this point of view seem to contain more 
orchestration than composition the emphasis is laid on the 
colour-values to the partial overshadowing of the form and the 
matter. In general, one does not think of Vaughan Williams as a 
colourist, but this suite, like that other suite for viola Flos Campi, 
presents an instance of a certain preoccupation with colour. At 
any rate the scoring is varied from number to number, and the 
general aim appears to be to achieve a series of water-colours in 
addition to making a suite and providing the soloist with a 
legitimate scope for virtuosity. 

In the first place, there is an unusual delicacy and restraint in 
the use of the wind instruments. In the Prelude, one flute, one 
clarinet, and one bassoon are used, and incidentally no violins. 
In the Carol two flutes and two clarinets are the only instruments 
employed besides the strings. In the Christmas Dance there is 
more body: an oboe, two bassoons, two horns, and two trumpets 
are involved, and a similar complement complete with percussion 
is required for the final Galop. Brass is used also in the Polka. 
Extensive calls are made on the harp: for picking out a tune in the 
Prelude, for providing a background in the Musette, and, more 
remarkably, for rhythmic emphasis in the Moto Perpetuo. Two 
horns and two trumpets are the only brass employed, only one 
oboe is required throughout, the percussion players are not over 
worked, and the celesta makes a pretty spot of colour in the 

It will be apparent from this suite, from Flos Campi and from 
the second string quartet that the tone of the viola makes a special 
and inspiring appeal to Vaughan Williams. Other instances of 
this predilection will be found through his whole output, as the 
pages of this book show. A closer scrutiny of the scores is still 
more revealing of this element in his personal style. 


Oboe Concerto 

Last of the works for solo instrument and orchestra is the Oboe 
Concerto of 1944, a deliberately small work, more interesting for 
its craftsmanship than for its meaning, message, or inspiration. 
It was prompted by the superb playing of Leon Goossens, to 
whom it is dedicated and by whom it was first performed at 
Liverpool on 30 September 1944. It is thus one more of the 
products of the instrumental virtuosity that has marked the 
English musical renaissance, though that movement is normally 
thought of as a matter of composition alone. Marie Hall may have 
inspired The Lark Ascending, Lionel Tertis certainly inspired the 
Viok Suite as well as numerous works by other composers, and 
Mr. Goossens has had his tale of tribute paid by composers to 
executants after all, composers depend on the executants for a 

The oboe is, apart from its orchestral associates, an instrument 
of marked limitations. Limitations are the artist's opportunity, 
but the ear is soon tired by so distinctive and keen-edged a tone. 
The oboe can play three parts, the pastoral, the chattering, and the 
etching. In this small concerto Vaughan Williams forces on it one 
more acrobatic agility in the presto Hnale. 

This little concerto is hardly more of a real concerto than is the 
Suite for Viok, and it does not flirt with the eighteenth century 
as the Violin Concerto does, unless the provision of a Musette as 
trio for the Minuet be regarded as a loan from the Arcadian 
Academies or an allusion to Watteau's shepherdesses of an even 
earlier period. The work is in feet slight and is scored only for 
strings. Its three movements are a Rondo Pastorale, a middle 
movement consisting of the aforementioned dances, Minuet and 
Musette, and a final Scherzo. Formally all are simple though not 
regular; they are not organic but sectional in internal economy, 
but they seem to drive towards a special section of greater import 
near the end. It is not so much that the end is in the beginning as 
that the end justifies the apparently casual beginning in the case 


of the first movement the goal is an elaborate cadenza, in the 
second no more than a broader statement of the tune over a wider 
range, but in the Finale it is an unexpected slow section, almost 
like one of the composer's favourite epilogues on a minute scale. 
The comparative monotony of the medium is made to yield a 
maximum of variety in harmonic inflexion, in melodic variation, 
and in rhythmic intricacy. 
The rondo tune of the first movement begins 


Allegro moderate 

P camabih 

The key is A minor, and it is the key scheme as much as thematic 
material that makes the movement a simple but unorthodox 
rondo, of which the formula is ABABA. Paragraph A contains 
four ideas thus disposed: (a) Ex. i, (b) a cadenza which dissolving 
into trills picks up an accompaniment, (c) the real counterpoise to 
Ex. i, a section ten bars long in G major, (d) recapitulation of the 
first section with the solo part varied by triplets. Paragraph B is in 
two sections, the first (e) in A major, the second (/) in C minor, 
as though the neutrality of A minor was to be preserved by the 
mutual cancellation of three sharps and three flats. The soloist's 
material in (e) is not unlike a development of Ex. i, but in (/) 

it goes in for semiquavers and staccato semiquavers at that 

chattering in fact. A in due course returns in A minor, and as usual 
in such cases its appearance is abbreviated. But it should be 
observed that whereas in a classical rondo this section would be an 
orchestral ritornello, in this modern concerto the soloist, who 
begins in the second bar, has no intermission, save a bar or two 
at a time, throughout the movement. After A, B returns in the 
same keys as before, A major and C minor. When A returns for 
the third and last time the solo part becomes so florid that the 
orchestra has to dwell on held chords and wait for it from time 
to time. Just before the end there is an argument, like that in 
Brahms's Third Symphony over the inflexion of the third in F 
major, whether in a chord of A minor the E ought not really to 


be flat rather than natural. A minor, the argument seems to be, 
is inclined to sharpness there have in fact been a number of 
F sharps in the cadenzas so that to ensure that it is really and 
finally neutral between flats and sharps the E should be flattened. 
Ultimately the claim is disallowed and the tonic chord is very firm 
with the soloist holding a long E natural. For those who like 
algebra the form of the movement can be expressed in the 
formula: A(a + b + c + d)B(e + f)A(a)B(e + f)A(a + c). 

The Minuet observes the customary formalities of structure but 
is wayward in its key scheme. Its main theme is pseudo-classical: 

Fx 2 

' Allegro moderate 

n ; _. . 

It runs to seventeen bars for the soloist and twenty-one for the 
orchestra; then there is a double bar but no repeat mark. The 
balancing phrase is again a neat cancellation of sharp and flat, 
E minor against D minor. In the best orthodox style this section 
is a little longer twenty-eight bars. The essence of a Musette is 
its drone. The drone, played, appropriately enough, by the oboe, 
lasts three bars and a beat and then breaks out into an ornamental 
cadence at each occurrence. The key is C major fluttering in these 
cadences into C minor, with a repetition a tone higher in D and 
again in G. Before the resumption of the Minuet the orchestra 
repeats the C major-minor section. There is no further repeat nor 
double bar. 

The Finale begins in E minor and ends in G major (after an 
A minor opening of the work!). Each section is in a different key, 
or at any rate bears a different signature, for the tonality is un 
stable. Melodic ideas are picked up and dropped almost as in an 
Elizabethan, fantasia or a German quodlibet, but the texture is not, 
as in those forms, contrapuntal but in simple harmony. Some of 
these ideas recur, notably the first: 


The movement can thus be analysed (roughly) as a scherzo with 
two trios, of which the first is a waltz and the second is slower and 
is marked by solid chords from the orchestra. To all this is 
appended a coda in two parts, the first of which is the destination 
of the whole work and the second a resumption of Ex. 3 by the 
oboe unaccompanied until the last few bars. The slow section is 
very striking and imparts to the concerto as a whole, in its soaring 
melody and diatonic harmony and cross-rhythm, something of 
the feeling of the Fifth Symphony, which is its nearest contem 
porary in composition. Here is once more the English landscape 
with the thoughts and visions which it always elicits from the 
composer. The pastoral pipe has done its work. 

Romance for Harmonica 

Like The Lark Ascending for Marie Hall, the Viola Suite for 
Lionel Tertis and the Oboe Concerto for Leon Goossens, the 
Romance for harmonica was composed primarily with an 
eminent executant in mind Larry Adler, whose combination of 
technical skill and musical feeling enables him to do things with 
his humble mouth-organ which the ear when it hears them still 
cannot believe possible. Subtlety of phrasing, variety of tone 
colour, attack, glissando, dynamic gradation, which one expects 
from more complex instruments, are all possible in addition to 
the peculiar 'double-stopping', in which one can include three- 
part chords, that is characteristic of this small portable organ for 
organ, reed-organ, is what it basically is. And of course melody, 
which the player produces by covering some of the wind-holes 
with his tongue. Hearing what Adler could do with his 'har 
monica', as we must for politeness' sake call it, and invited by him 
to write for it, Vaughan Williams complied with the request and 
produced this Romance in D flat for harmonica, string orchestra, 
and piano in 1951, while the Sinfonia Antartica was being com 
pleted. Its first performance was in New York. In this country it 
landed at Liverpool and made its London debut at a Henry Wood 
Promenade Concert on 6 September 1952. 


The form of the work is clear and concise a binary form in 
which two subjects are fully stated and a quasi-development con 
stitutes a sort of recapitulation. There is an accompanied cadenza 
between the two parts and there is a coda. The two subjects of the 
exposition are distinguishable by their rhythm and their tonality, 
as well as by the manner of their solo writing. The first subject is 
in D flat and 6/8 with consecutive 6/3 chords for the solo. The 
second subject is in C major and 9/8 withflorid arabesque monodic 
writing for the harmonica. A few bars of the opening solo may 
be quoted not only to state the theme but to show how one 
writes for harmonica. 

Andanis iranquillo 
Ex.1. " 

The second subject has a strong upward leap of a seventh to start 
it off, quaver motion becomes more florid until what began as 
melody finds itself a cadenza. The cadenza however is eventful, in 
that the orchestra breaks in and at one point actually silences the 
soloist, who has reverted to chord playing. The second part is 
marked 'allegro moderate'. The piano sustains the main burden 
of accompaniment with arpeggios. There is a counter-melody 
from the violins, over which the solo plays 

p caniobile 

which subsequently develops into a real cantabile tune upon 
which the violins can fasten first in imitation and then in unison. 
This is not quite the same as the tune of the second subject, it is 
rather a clarification of it. The key is C major, but the cantabile 
tune acts as a bridge back to D flat, in which key the first subject 
appears shorn of its triple stopping and considerably reduced in 
size, unless one counts the coda, which is founded on the same 
material, as part of a recapitulated first subject. The orchestral 
writing thins out in this last section, thus giving the soloist a 


short cadenza, none other than Ex. i. The piano conies down on a 
tonic chord with an effect of finality. The ground plan of the 
movement, which is however rhapsodical and not architectural in 
character, is thus ABCB'A'A, in which C is the middle cadenza 
and A and B stand for first subject in D flat and second subject 
in C. 

The orchestral layout is for doubled strings, except for double- 
bass which is in one part, making nine parts in all. It may be that 
this gives too thick a texture as background for so thin-toned an 
instrument as the mouth-organ, which is easily swallowed by it 
unless there is amplification of the solo by microphone as there 
often is when this instrument is played. The piano has an im 
portant function in that it comes in with decisive effect on the 
first and last chords and at the climax of the middle cadenza. It 
also gives definition to the figuration of minor parts, occasionally 
undertakes the real work of accompanying by breaking into 
arpeggios, and in general holds the texture together. 

Choral Music 


IT is surprising in a composer who, however radical in his tech 
nique, has always sought inspiration in tradition and has gone 
out of his way to identify himself with many specifically English 
traditions, that Vaughan Williams has never written a full-length 
Biblical oratorio, nor even the equivalent of The Dream of 
Gerontius. Sancta Civitas comes nearest to the main English choral 
tradition and is the only work actually called an oratorio on its 
tide-page. But its text comes not from the Old Testament but 
from the Book of Revelation and it is prefaced with a quotation 
from Plato. Canticles and Psalms and three Choral Hymns repre 
sent his sacred music in the terminological sense. His most sub 
stantial choral work is the Sea Symphony, which is discussed not 
here but in the context of his other symphonies because in their 
numbering it occupies the first place. 

Toward the Unknown Region 

The work which first drew attention to him as a composer with 
a future was the Whitmanesque cantata Toward the Unknown 
Region, which was composed about 1905 and first performed at 
the Leeds Festival of 1907. Hitherto he had been known as a song 
writer. The first volume of Songs of Travel which is roughly con 
temporary with this first cantata quickly gained a wide currency 
and made his name familiar. And Willow Wood, which employs 
a female chorus and an orchestral accompaniment, is essentially a 
solo cantata for baritone. This now unknown work was composed 
in 1903 and shows the composer still in the toils of a romantic 
idiom that now seems totally uncharacteristic and from which he 
made frantic and successful efforts to escape. The poem is by D. G. 


Rossetti, who exercised a certain spell over Vaugham Williams in 
his youth sufficient to produce the House of Life song-cycle, which 
contains one really great song, 'Silent Noon'. In that song can 
be heard an individual voice speaking the familiar language of 
romanticism. In Willow Wood one has to listen very hard to catch 
the individual voice, though in such a passage as this, there is 
behind all the Brahmsian hollow triads and conventional agitation 
of the rhythm in the bass something that one heard in 'Whither 
shall I wander', the earliest of the Stevenson songs, and some 
thing audible too in 'Silent Noon'. But Willow Woodvras only a 

stepping-stone to more individual and higher things. There must 
be scores of such cantatas written in the 'nineties from which there 
is not enough essential Vaughan Williams in Willow Wood to 
distinguish it. But the impression made by Toward the Unknown 
Region was of something new: Hubert Foss quotes Harry Plunket 
Greene's description of the way it struck the Leeds audience 
'new in outlook, new in its working out and enthralling in its 
beautiful interpretation of the words'. In retrospect it seems more 
difficult to justify the middle one of those three specifications than 
the other two. It is easy to feel the newness nearly half a century 
later because the directness, the sincerity, the impact of personality 
comes straight at the listener out of the opening fanfare and never 
thereafter flags or is dimmed as the interpretation of the words is 

But 'new in working out'? The choral writing is mainly homo- 
phonic and, though one may feel the influence of Parry in the 
approach to the text, the part-writing has not Parry's virtuosity. 
The chromaticism of the orchestral writing is derived directly 
from the romantic tradition of the nineteenth century. Chrom 
aticism in later Vaughan Williams generally depicts evil, or fear, 
or at any rate obliquity, but here it is positive, warm, and decora- 



tive, even though compared with Strauss and Elgar it is mild in 
its colours and quite in keeping with the homespun texture. 
Other conventional features are reiterated triplets for climax, off 
beat inner parts in purely accompanimental passages, harp arpeg 
gios. However, there is something new in these opening bars: 


Grave ma nan troppo 

The signature suggests D minor, the cadence A minor, because 
three bars kter a fanfare on A and a bass pivoting on A reinforces 
the tonality of A. The tonality is in fact A because the music is in 
the Lydian mode A to A with a flattened supertonic (B flat) gives 
one the Lydian mode from which the folk-song 'Matthew, Mark, 
Luke, and John' derives its distinctive character. Here then is an 
early sign of folk-song influence. 

The choral writing, basically in four parts, shows a constant 
tendency to divide into five or six, and the spacing of the minim 
chords at the words 'are in that land' is noteworthy because it is 
this registration of voices rather than contrapuntal part-writing 
that is the chief resource employed in interpreting the words. At 
this point the orchestra shows a tendency to become luxuriously 
chromatic but it is promptly pulled up by the indication 'Tempo 
del comincio* a firm restatement of the fanfare and moving bars 
that had followed Ex. i. 


l> L 1 ==i 

r '^ 

*" etc. 

fr ' J J | 


-j-+ ' ^ J ^ - 

col 8 

This sort of bass has become a mark of Vaughan Williams's idiom. 
The question 'Darest thou now, O Soul, walk with me toward 
the unknown region' is answered *I know it not, O Soul* in 
identical music, which however develops a greater animation, a 
triplet counterpoint and a change into E flat major. Key changes 


abruptly brought about produce the dissolving view into which 
the exploring soul advances to the realm where 'all waits un 
dreamed of C major, A major, B flat major, G major, and 
finally to the Lydian A of the beginning. Ex. i, this time marked 
'teneramente', returns like the spirit of inquiry still unabashed and 
unafraid. But now, when the ties are loosened and the bounds 
cease to confine, the harmony proceeds with more orthodox 
modulations, as it might be in Brahms, into the extreme sharp 
keys, where it is once more pulled up by Ex. i. Only now Ex. i 
has gone into F major and becomes a long swinging tune over a 
marching bass (in crotchets, though, not in quavers, as in Ex. i). 

This great tune is a song tune, and the Cantata, we now recall, 
is not on its title-page called a cantata but a Song for chorus and 
orchestra. The tune, as Foss has pointed out, has already served 
the composer, as far as its salient opening phrase is concerned, 
for the last song in the House of Life cycle (1903), where too 
it shifts into F. Such coincidences are usually unobserved by 
composers themselves but they are never accidental. Music is at 
once symbol and language. Ideas find their musical equivalent. 
Here the underlying connexion is found in the song's title, 'Love's 
last gift'. The distance between Whitman and Rossetti is great, 
but the idea of ultimate fulfilment, though verbally different, 
evokes the same musical image in the mind of the composer. 

There is however a further climax to come in Toward the Un 
known Region *O joy, O fruit of all'. Vaughan Williams goes 
straight at it, using conventional means that he would never have 
done kter. He even ends fortissimo, marcato, and with a drum- 
roll. 'Niente' had not yet become his accustomed way of bringing 
the curtain down on his visions. 

The text of Toward the Unknown Region comes from Whitman's 
Whispers of Heavenly Death, 

Fantasia on Christmas Carols 

The Fantasia on Christmas Carols for baritone solo, chorus, and 
orchestra (the ordinary full orchestra with organ and a set of bells) 


was first produced at the Hereford Festival of 1912, thus follow 
ing at the Three Choirs Festivals the Tallis Fantasia of 1910 at 
Gloucester and the Five Mystical Songs of 1911 at Worcester. It 
may be doubted whether the audience of that time recognized a 
single one of the four chief constituent carols acknowledged on 
the title-page of the score 'The Truth sent from above', 'Come 
all you worthy gentlemen', 'On Christmas Night', and 'There is 
a fountain'. They were quite unlike the Victorian carols then in 
current use, which were not of folk origin and were, the majority 
of them, still of a hearty character, in which the Dickensian idea 
of Christmas was prominent. But by 1912 the feeling for the 
mystical and the revived medieval carol was stirring, for The 
Coivley Carol Book, the principal instrument in the change of 
sentiment, had already been published for eleven years. 

The carol revival in England goes back a long way. In 1833 
Sandys, following Gilbert's example of 1822, published a small 
collection in which were rescued a few authentic folk-carols, e.g. 
'The Cherry Tree Carol', 'I saw three ships', 'A Virgin most 
pure', and 'God rest you merry'. The rest had to wait for the 
folk-song revival of Broadwood, Sharp, and Vaughan Williams 
about 1900. Meantime the practice of carol singing had spread 
under the influence of the Oxford Movement from the home and 
the streets to the Church. The chief agents in this movement were 
the Rev. J. M. Neale and the Rev. T. Helmore, who published 
in 1852-4 collections containing tunes taken from the Swedish 
book, Piae Cantiones, of which 'Good King Wenceslas' was the 
one to capture popular imagination. Stainer and Bramley's book 
of 1871 extended the number and the range of carols, mixing 
traditional with newly composed carols. This was the collection 
which provided people at the turn of the century with what they 
regarded as traditional carols, the old tradition being now fortified 
by a quarter of a century of growing enthusiasm that made many 
of the carols doubly traditional. But by 1901 when The Cowley 
Carol Book appeared the buried folk tradition had been tapped, 
from which emerged not only Nativity carols but Crucifixion 
carols, such as were common in the sixteenth century, and pagan 
Wassail songs. Vaughan Williams made his own incursion into 


the folk tradition in Derbyshire and Yorkshire and, with Mrs. 
Leather, in Herefordshire. Cecil Sharp too had tapped the folk 
tradition in Somerset. 

'Fantasia* is used in the Elizabethan sense of a contrapuntal com 
position in which tunes are strung in sequence. The Elizabethan 
fantasia for strings was fugal in texture, and when what contem 
porary composers called 'a point' had been sufficiently worked 
another one was taken up and subjected to similar treatment, just 
as is done in a madrigal at every two or three lines of verse. 
Vaughan Williams's fantasia is looser it contains imitational 
writing, but it also contains unison and block harmony and he 
makes allusions in the form of descants to other carols, notably 
'The First NowelT and 'The Virgin unspotted 5 and a Yorkshire 
Wassail song, so that at one point there is a sort of Quodlibet of 
five tunes going on at once (cf the folk-dance ballet On Christmas 
Night, p. 252). 

On the title-page three alternative scorings are permitted to 
facilitate the wider use of this most happy and beautiful, hearty 
and mystical, Christinas music. These are for strings and organ or 
piano, for organ alone, or for piano with solo cello. The choir 
moreover is warned that it is to be prepared to sing in four 
different ways singing the words, singing with closed lips, sing 
ing 'Ah', and singing c Uh' with open lips, thus producing an 
orchestration of voices as well as instruments. 

The importance of the cello is made manifest at once in that the 
Fantasia opens with an improvisatory passage for the solo cello 
which foreshadows in general shape and in tonality (the Aeolian 
mode) the first carol 'This is the truth sent from above'. This was 
collected in 1909 from Mr. W. Jenkins of Kings Pyon near 
Weobley in Herefordshire. 


This is the truth sent from a-bove, the truth of God, the God of love; There 


-fore don't turn me_ from your door, But heark-en all both- rich and poor. 


This is not strictly speaking a carol by any definition of that 
elusive word. Strictly a carol should have a burden at the end of 
each stanza, representing the physical movement of the dance, or 
at least of ceremonial procession, the basic definition of a carol 
being that it is a dance-song. This song is unusually theological for 
a folk-song, dealing in the short space of four verses with the 
Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. In the kst verse the promise 
of redemption gives the song its connexion with Christmas. The 
tune, which begins like 'Searching for Lambs', is sung by the 
baritone soloist and accompanied by a piece of four-part imitation 
for voices using the humming tone prescribed by the composer. 
This passage recurs after each verse and so, by compensating for 
the lack of the burden, turns the song into a carol. In the last verse 
the choir takes over the words from the soloist. 

The second carol is linked to the first by a brief phrase of cello 
solo on the same tune, but the key is brusquely changed to a bright 
E major for 'Come all you worthy gentlemen' which is a true 
carol of the Nativity, of which the burden is 'O we wish you the 
comfort and tidings of joy*: 


Come all you worth -y gen- tic -men that may be stand -ing by : 

y-'ft r r r ' if f r r [ r r r r |F M 

Christ our bless ed Sa - vi-our was born on t Christ -mas day. The 

bless - ed Vir - gin Ma - ry un - to the Lord did pray we 
wish you the com - fort and tid - ings of joy! 

This carol was collected by Cecil Sharp from Mr. Rapsey of 
Bridgwater in Somerset, who told Sharp that he learned it from 
his mother and used to sing it in the streets as a boy. Tenors and 
basses sing the first verse in unison, sopranos and altos join in for 
the burden in harmony. At the end of the second verse 'The First 
Nowell 5 is heard aloft in the orchestra. Before the third verse 


another carol is interposed. When the carol is resumed it pro 
vides the ending of the Fantasia two other quotations are made 
by the orchestra, the first the beginning of the Yorkshire 'The 
Wassail Bough' (see English County Songs) : 

Ex. 3. 

[Here \vc come a - was - sail - ing a - mong the leaves so green] 

the other a snatch of a dance or singing-game tune: 



Before we come to these and even greater complexities, the 
third carol 'On Christmas Night' is interpolated in G major. The 
baritone soloist sings the first verse, and like the old parish clerks 
who gave out the psalms, is echoed line by line by the chorus. 
This carol was collected by Vaughan Williams himself from Mrs. 
Verrall of Monks Gate, near Horsham, in Sussex in 1904. The tune 
gets an access of splendour from the broadening into triple time 
at the end. This cadence figure to the familiar words of the 
Benediction supply the composer with his final, prolonged, and 
exquisite cadence. 


Q u _P 



On Christ - mas night all Chris - tians sing To hear the news- the 

an - gels bring. On Christ-mas night All Chris-tians sing to hear the news the 


r r r r I"- <*r i =?=& 

an - gels bring. News of great joy, news of great mirthj News of our 

mer - ci - ful King's birth. 

The chorus have to be content with 'Ah' in harmony as an 
accompaniment to the soloist who has a certain amount of 


theology to preadbu The last two bars are subjected to develop 
ment 'pochinetto animato* to make a climax which the composer 
tops with another quotation from 'The Wassail Bough', taken this 
time from the end where the wassailers are beginning to wish the 
householder a happy New Year with a view to taking up their 
collection. Wassail songs belong essentially to the turn of the year 
and are concerned ultimately with vegetation magic. They usually 
end with a verse beginning 

God bless the master of this house, 

and finishing with a wish for a happy New Year to the household. 
By quoting this wassail tune 

Ex. 6. 

Love and joy come to you and to our was - sail bough, Pray God 

L * r r ff 1 l J _M J J _M J 

bkss you and send you a hap - py New Year. 

Vaughan Williams is preparing to revert to the carol 'Come all 
you worthy gentlemen', whose last verse runs thus: 

God bless the ruler of this house 

And long on may he reign. 

Many happy Christmases 

He live to see again ! 

God bless our generation 

Who live both far and near, 

And we wish them a happy, a happy New Year. 

The baritone soloist duly sings it, while the chorus interjects 
some of the lines of 'On Christmas Night', and it is here that the 
quotations Exx. 4 and 6 occur. The two carols are combined from 
here to the end, and upon them is superimposed 'The Virgin 
unspotted*, 'The Fkst NowelT and both parts of 'The Wassail 
Bough*. Bells begin to chime, but as their clangour dies down the 
soloist sings C O we wish you a happy New Year' and the chorus 
answers with 'Both now and ever more, Amen' extremely softly, 
as though by now they had reached the end of the street. 


Five Mystical Songs 

The Five Mystical Songs, settings of poems by George Herbert, 
form a cycle in which baritone solo, chorus, and orchestra are 
combined. It is hardly more a choral work than Willow Wood, 
except that the chorus is of mixed voices, but it was written for a 
Three Choirs Festival and is too large in intention, design, and lay 
out to be assigned to any other category than the choral, though 
it is possible to sing the cycle with piano alone and without chorus. 

The religious poets of the seventeenth century, George Herbert, 
Richard Crashaw, and Thomas Traherne, are generally described 
as mystics to distinguish them from the metaphysical poets, of 
whom Abraham Cowley and John Donne are the chief. Although 
both 'mystical' and 'metaphysical* ought to be, and sometimes are, 
thus enclosed in inverted commas to indicate their restricted 
meaning, the labels are fairly correct at their face value. Meta 
physics is an inquiry employing ratiocination, even in poetry; 
mysticism is a vision employing intuition. George Herbert's faith is 
mystical but the argument of fi Love bade me welcome', No. 3 in 
Vaughan Williams's cycle, is in the metaphysical manner and the 
distinction is not absolute. Vaughan "Williams's general attitude 
of mjr>d is mystical rather than metaphysical, and that he should 
sooner or later light on Herbert and Crashaw (in the Four Hymns) 
is natural for the expression of less pantheistic frames of mind 
than Whitman's. He found Herbert at a moment of transition in 
his style when his idiom had just crystallized sufficiently to enable 
him to produce something almost as decisively his own in vocal 
music as the Tallis Fantasia, which had been played at the previous 
festival in 1910. 

Almost as decisively but not quite, since in the first song 
'Easter' there remain traces of the old romantic idiom which he 
had employed in his Rossetti period the triplet accompaniment 
and the secondary sevenths noted by Foss. In the second song 1 got 
me flowers' there are incessant changes of time-signature, though 
the vocal line runs on with the flexibility of plainsong and with 


two other of its characteristics a generally syllabic underlay of 
the words and the use of short melismata to break it up. In 'Love 
bade me welcome* the choir actually sings (without the words 
to 'Ah') the chant *O sacrum convivium', a form of quotation 
more common in literature than in music but employed by 
Vaughan Williams with comparative frequency, because he to a 
degree rare among musicians really cares for tunes and has them 
stored, names, history and all, in his memory for ready recall. The 
accompaniment to this song is of the swaying chord type which 
looks back to the Songs of Travel. In No. 4, 'The Call', there is no 
part for chorus, but we have authentic Vaughan Williams, modal 
harmony, consecutive triads, and characteristic line: 


J j-J , 

31 p ' 

1 JI 1_J 


Come my way, my truth, my life 

'Antiphon', No. 5, is a moto perpetuo with a strong false relation 
involving the key note to give the harmony bite while the men 
of the chorus sing the opening Hne in unison. It is repeated in 
harmony and there is nothing for the soloist. (For the soloist there 
is only an alternative version without chorus.) This finale has 
something of the Sea Symphony in its boisterous 'Let all the 
world in every corner sing*. 

The cycle was first sung by J. Campbell Mclnnes at the Wor 
cester Festival of 1911. The distinctive personality of the composer 
can be felt in it and the rhythmic elasticity of 'I got me flowers' is 
a sign of emancipation. The music looks forward but it is still 
idiomatically old-fashioned. 

Mass in G minor 

The Ordinary of the Mass has appealed in every generation to 
composers because, whatever their individual shade of belief, it 
enshrines a complete religious experience Kyrie is invocation, 
Gloria is thanksgiving, Credo is faith, Sanctus worship, and Agnus 
Dei supplication. Within this ample formula man's attitude to the 


eternal mysteries can find expression without violence to personal 
conviction. Music, being for the most part a non-conceptual kind 
of thinking, finds in this lapidary Latin text concepts of sufficient 
abstraction to produce, in association with the abstraction of 
music, a suitable medium for the contemplation of the divine 
verities. The Credo alone presents difficulties. Schweitzer, himself 
theologian and musician in one, says 'The Nicene Creed is a hard 
nut for a composer to crack. If ever there was a text put together 
without any idea of its being set to music, it is this, in which the 
Greek theologians have laid down their correct and dry formulas 
for the conception of the Godhead of Christ/ Parts of it, for 
example, Incamatus, are fertile of music and have stirred to their 
depths the imaginations of Byrd, Bach, and Beethoven, but other 
parts, 'unam sanctam cathoHcam et apostolicam ecclesiam', for 
instance, have simply to be traversed by the composer as expedi- 
tiously and euphoniously as possible. In strictly liturgical settings, 
where brevity is a virtue, the problem can be solved without too 
great difficulty. For a devout believer the theology presents no 
intellectual stumbling block. A composer to whom the formulae 
may present intellectual difficulty can still by the exercise of the 
imagination penetrate to the thought beyond the formulae. Even 
for purposes of strictly intellectual criticism of a philosophy it is 
necessary, as Russell has discerningly urged, for the critic first to 
put himself imaginatively in the author's place before he proceeds 
to demolish his thought. In making a setting of the Creed it is not 
the musician's task, nor will it be his wish, to embark on theo 
logical criticism. What he has to do is to penetrate by direct vision 
to the central truth at the heart of the mystery. The whole quality 
of Vaughan Williams's mind is mystical in this sense. The word 
'mystical 5 is one to avoid if possible and only to use when it means 
precisely this immediate apprehension of ultimate reality which 
is only vouchsafed to few mortals. Other men, including the 
ablest, must struggle by every means in their power, which is to 
say by every faculty they possess, to come at ultimate truth by 
intellectual labour, by flight of the imagination, by quickness of 
intuition, by responsiveness of emotion, even maybe by the acuity 
of their senses. Religion has been longest in this quest, philosophy 


almost as long; some achieve the vision through poetry, some 
nowadays by mathematics, and some by music. Beethoven was 
the first composer to seek to grasp metaphysical ultimates by 
music, but in recent years with the decay in dogmatic religion, 
vast numbers of ordinary people, seeing in music a symbol of 
order in the universe, have caught a glimpse of what they would 
fain believe in musical experience. 

Vaughan Williams is more mystical than metaphysical and in 
the later symphonies has shown the prophet's penetration and 
insight into the heart of things. It is not therefore unnatural nor 
inappropriate for him to set the Roman Mass. The precipitating 
cause was Sir Richard Terry's work at Westminster Cathedral, 
which has seen the revival of the polyphonic style and the recall to 
active service of the Masses of Byrd and the motets of the English 
polyphonists after centuries of oblivion. The Mass in G minor was 
therefore composed for liturgical use, and is thus in the tradition 
of Byrd, not of Bach or Beethoven. It was submitted to Terry for 
scrutiny as to its liturgical propriety. In spite of this however an 
error found its way into the text which was detected by the printer, 
of all people. In the Credo the word 'apostolicam* somehow was 
missing. It has been inserted into the bass line but there is no room 
for it in the tenor, alto, and soprano entries that follow in imita 
tion. The Mass was however often sung liturgically by Terry's 
choir at Westminster Cathedral after its first performance at Bir 
mingham Town Hall in 1923. It has been fitted with English 
words and its Credo and Sanctus were sung at the Coronation of 
Queen Elizabeth n in Westminster Abbey. But it does also have 
concert performances by choral societies and it was dedicated to 
Gustav Hoist and his Whitsuntide Singers, who made it very 
much their own at their yearly gatherings. 

Its layout is like tW- of the Tallis Fantasia for Strings, of which 
in spirit, style, and Elizabethan inspiration it is the vocal counter 
part, i.e. it is set for double chok and four soloists. It provides a 
locus dassicus for neo-modal harmony. The modes flourished 
through 500 years of vocal polyphony and then under evolu 
tionary pressure two of them, the Aeolian and Ionian, formed a 
partnership to the exclusion of the others, which revolutionized 


harmony. As modal organization decayed the major-minor key 
system took its place and vast new territories of tonal relationship 
were opened up in the course of the three centuries from 1600 to 
1900. This system of tonality then showed signs of exhaustion and 
our present century has seen many kinds of search and experiment 
to find alternative systems of organization. One line of search was 
to take up again the discarded church modes and to use them, not 
in the old careful way in which little modulation was possible, but 
in a new way in which the resources of three centuries of harmonic 
development could be applied to other modes than the Aeolian 
and the Ionian. Vaughan Williams was a pioneer in the use of 
modal melody and in developing the right kind of modal harmony 
to go with it. 

Another stylistic feature to be recovered from the past is false 
relation, or, as it is more suitably called by the Americans, cross 
relation. This is a harmonic idiom that has appealed to English taste 
throughout the centuries but which rarely occurs in the main con 
tinental traditions, though it is found in Schiitz's Passions. An 
example from Byrd will show what it is and why it is stigmatized 
as a logical falsity: 


@b i* -*- -~~~*' 

I 1 I 


s -<3 Jx"*""" 


The F is inflected sharp in the treble and natural in the bass in the 
next chord. The rules for good part-writing in classical harmony 
forbid such progressions as being illogical, and contradictory, and 
confusing of the tonality, and prescribe that if a change is to be 
made it must be in the same part. The justification for transgression 
of the rule, which was observed by Palestrina though not by Byrd, 
is the contrapuntal movement of the parts. The ordinary melodic 
minor scale as practised by young pianists is to their bewilderment 
different in its ascending and descending forms, and the tendency 
to sharpen in an ascending and to flatten in a descending passage, 
as manifested in that scale, accounts for some of the false relations 


in Elizabethan polyphony. But English composers seem to like the 
piquancy of the sound for its own sake, so that Walton can write 
in his viola concerto 


and the idiom only kpsed during the nineteenth-century domina 
tion of our music by Mendelssohn, Brahms's Third Symphony is 
the chief instance of its use by a German master, who bases the 
main argument of the whole work on the conflict of the sharp or 
natural inflexion of the third degree of the scale of F, which he 
precipitates by the false relation in the first two bars. Vaughan 
Williams's use of it in the Mass in G minor is a revival of the 
Elizabethan usage. Here in the opening bars of the optional 
organ introduction we see an example entirely in Byrd's manner: 


if .,''41 

tj -* 

f r 

r T r r 


r r 

r- ' r r N 


where the two E's are differently inflected in adjacent pulses. 
Truth to tell, the idiom became fashionable during the heyday of 
the Tudor revival and was overworked in the harmonization of 
carols and such things for which Mendelssohnian harmony had 
come to seem anachronistic and out of style. 

The organ introductions are provided 'only to give the pitch at 
the start and to restore it if lost during the course of a movement'. 
The Mass is intended to be sung unaccompanied, but with his 
usual eye for the practicable the composer adds an ad libitum organ 
part for use if it is not found expedient to sing the Mass entirely 
a cappella. 

The Kyrie falls into its three divisions, of which the two outer 
sections to the words Kyrie eleison bear the signature of two flats 
and thus appear to be in G minor, whereas the Christe eleison 
section in the middle bears the signature of one sharp and so pur 
ports to be in G major. But the facts are otherwise: the Kyrie 


eleison is in the Dorian mode on G, the Christe eleison in the Dorian 
mode on D (its traditionally associated pitch). We thus have the 
later practice of a dominant modulation for Christe eleison applied 
to a polyphony which is in itself modal, though it is to be noted 
that it is not consistently archaic. The opening Kyrie begins like a 
fugal exposition with subject and answer beginning with the 
answer if the organ introduction is disregarded a fifth apart but 
all in the Dorian mode. For Christe eleison the soloists are respon 
sible, thus producing an effect of scoring or registration in the 
organist's sense, but in this section the Dorian mode is diversified 
by sharpened thirds and sevenths which produce touches of har 
monic brightness and incidental false relations. The chorus resumes 
Kyrie eleison, which is slightly extended into a long cadence. Out 
of the last chord of G minor the alto voice projects with the same 
theme as that with which it opened the movement, which centres 
not on G but D. These various procedures, which do not obey the 
limitations of modal counterpoint, fugal writing, or classical 
tonality, are perfectly logical, completely satisfying, and most 
illuminating of the way in which a modern style has been 
fashioned out of an old. 

In the Gloria the double choir is used in a wide-spread eight-part 
block harmony for *et in terra pax' (which follows the liturgical 
intonation by tenor voice of the words 'Gloria in excelsis Deo') 
and in antiphony for laudamus Te, benedicimus Te', with a fine 
crop of consecutive fifths and octaves in the part-writing, which 
led to light-hearted comment about 'neo-organum' and to the 
slogan *Back to Hucbald'. A single page devoted to the words 
'miserere nobis* shows how conventional andneo-modal harmony 
can be combined: the unexceptionable chords of the sixth (6/3) in 
consecutives alternate and finally merge with the prohibited com 
mon chords in root position (5/3) used consecutively: 



J. JM i 

1J ? 1 


Ali - se - re - re no 

'Kiiii i 1^=^^ 

'id g 




re - re no - 



* : SIP : 


The solo quartet is used both severally and together for the further 
variation of the texture. 

In the theological propositions of the Creed there are embedded 
ideas which make a strong appeal to the imagination, flowers amid 
arid intellectual wastes from the musician's point of view. The 
Incarnation is one such; the death, burial, and Resurrection is 
another one thinks of the Crudfixus chorus of Bach's B minor 
Mass, for instance, with its throbbing ground bass and its mir 
aculous cadence at 'sepultus est*. But Byrd's Masses, being con 
ceived for liturgical use, provide closer analogies for applying to 
this G minor Mass than do either the great oratorio Masses of 
Bach and Beethoven, or the ekborate liturgical settings of Haydn 
and Mozart. Byrd's treatment of the Incarnation in the Mass for 
Three Voices, for instance, is not an elaboration of the counter 
point by repetition of the text, but a subtle harmonic colouring of 
the tonality by what is virtually a plunge into the subdominant. 

In the first part of the Credo Vaughan Williams uses antiphony 
between, and overlapping of, the two choks to traverse the attri 
butes of Godhead 'visibilium et invisibilium', 'Deum de deo', 
lumen de lumine', and so on. 'Descendit de caelis' is depicted in a 
descending progression of three of the four parts for 'descendit* and 
a triad progression of F G F enlarged to eight-part harmony for 
*caelis'. *Et incarnatus' follows in a sober piece of quasi-academic 
counterpoint which flowers miraculously at the miracle of God 
becoming Man. The Incarnation also is depicted in an eight-part 
chordal progression, the final chord of F containing the tonic at 
four different octave pitches. 'Crucifixus* is given to a single voice, 
the alto soloist; 'passus et sepultus* to five-part choral harmony 
with a very small meHsma in the soprano part, such as one finds in 
Byrd. The vision of the Second Coming produces a climax of tone 
and animation, followed by a return to theology and Amen. The 
task of dissolving the Nicene Creed into music has once more 
been satisfactorily accomplished satisfactorily, that is to say, to 
the Church whose faith it proclaims without the distractions and 
over-elaborations of music against which it has often been obliged 
to protest, satisfactory to the musician in making the counterpoint 
fluent and swift, and satisfactory to the artist in that the great 


imaginative conceptions contained in the dogmas of the intellect 
have once more flowered in music. 

Sanctus, Osanna I, Benedictus, and Osanna II are set in one con 
tinuous section of which the main tonality is G major. To set out 
in words the extraordinary resource with which a few notes of the 
diatonic scale are made to encompass heaven and earth and fill 
them with the glory of the Lord is to falsify their sublime sim 
plicity. Nothing could show, as these few pages do, the undreamed 
possibilities of half a diatonic scale, of a tonality enriched by long 
discarded but now reinstated modes, of the significance of a 
flattened seventh and a sharpened third (though Schubert taught 
that trick to all subsequent generations), of a cross-accent of twos 
placed across bars of three time (though Schumann had pkyed 
with that device to some purpose in the piano concerto). 

The word 'Sanctus 5 is set to a gentle melismatic theme which is 
taken up at a bar's distance by the sopranos and altos of each choir: 


1 Qfl , j J J J i 

, J i J i . J J 

J j 1 i j 

i h 


pp legato 

ftf 4 f \j 
i r i r f r 

r r r f r 






A u 

j i j i 

i j . i j 

B52 4 1 

1 - I'ipj 

r r 'T T r 





Here is a mixture of the Dorian and Mixolydian modes in a 
context of G major leading by imitational entries to a major chord 
on D. The first repetition leads to a major chord on G, the second 
to a major chord on A, major chords which have the effect of 
bright clear light. 'Pleni sunt caeli' is treated in a similar kind of 
imitation but without the intervening punctuating chords and 
arriving ultimately on a chord of E major, brighter still. For 
Osanna we descend to a more sober mode, E minor with a 
flattened seventh, and the feeling of exultation is produced by 
antiphony and overlapping rhythms. All this has been sung by the 
two choirs. For Benedictus the solo quartet is invoked, to which the 
combined choirs (in four parts) sing quiet responses. The second 
Osanna is quite unlike the first, being in a broader movement with 
out that repetition of the words which had given animation to the 


first Osanna, but ending after a blaze of tone on a unison G. The 
riches and economy are equally remarkable. 

The device of the ambiguously inflected third together with a 
slow triplet is responsible for the distinctive character of the Agnus 
Dei thus: 


r 'L-T F r r r r r "! r r r 

/> A - gnus Dei, qui tol - lis pec - ca - ta mun - di 

The soloists, who begin, arrive from E minor at a chord of E 
major and to it the choirs respond with a similar progression from 
G minor to G major. Then after an imitational 'miserere nobis 5 the 
chorus sings Ex. 6 E to E and the soloists respond with the trans 
posed version from G to G. What follows is an unexpected loan 
from Christe eleison the supplication for peace is made to the 
Prince of Peace. Thereafter the two choirs separate and build up 
a coda to the same words, in which the soloists also join for the 
last great sequence of chords, mostly in root position, arriving 
finally at the tonic chord of G major. 

Flos Campi 

'Consider the lilies of the field 5 , said Jesus, but their beauty to 
which he drew attention was not an object of contemplation in 
itself; the lily, in feet, was not so much a sheer delight as a symbol. 
The purpose of a symbol is to embody an idea, and the idea 
embodied in the lily was the providence of God. The New Testa 
ment Greek for 'consider' is xarapdde-ce, learn'. But one can con 
sider lilies without learning anything, and indeed without any kind 
of intellectual apprehension beyond the vaguest notion that they 
are somehow a tangible token of order prevailing obscurely in the 
world. They may be sensuously enjoyed for what they are and 
provide the considerer of lilies with a sensuous experience. This 
when held fast in recollection is called an image. 


All artists work in images, but works of art, at any rate in the 
larger forms and in stages of development beyond the primitive, 
also deal in ideas. In so far as music is a phenomenon of mind and 
not merely of ear the composer is perpetually translating ideas 
into images, aural images, for literature (including drama) alone 
of the arts deals directly with ideas (or thought) as its material. 
Painters and composers must translate their ideas into other 
mediums. This translating process is common in every art, and by 
it one work of art can inspire the creation of another as we find 
mjob, which is the last link of a chain that began with a Hebrew 
drama, which was translated by Blake into a series of engravings 
which were in turn translated into music by Vaughan Williams. 
Now Blake is a rare example of an artist who pursued equally two 
different arts, poetry and drawing, poetry which is mainly idea 
and drawing which is mainly image. Critics of Blake (see Encyclo 
paedia Britannica, eleventh edition) justly point out that the balance, 
which was at first evenly held, finally overturned because the 
image predominated. 'He endeavoured constantly to treat the 
intellectual material of verse as if it could be moulded into 
sensuous form.' Ultimately he failed and his poetry became in 
coherent. But, on the other hand, his drawing, of which the illus 
trations to the Book of Job are a supreme example, became 
stronger and clearer. 'For', as the critic already quoted remarks, 
'this tendency to translate ideas into image, and to find for every 
thought, however simple or sublime, a precise and sensuous form, 
is the essence of pure artistic invention' (referring in 'artistic' to the 
graphic arts). 

The Song of Solomon has been variously explained as an allegory 
and as a drama and as a collection of lyrics. The last is the most 
probable: here is an anthology of epithalamia, songs sung at 
wedding ceremonies in the Near East. Though this purpose is 
undeniably and palpably erotic, the contemplative element must 
be strong not only in the poetry but in the acts of love. Consider 
the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley, but 'consider' in the 
sense of 'contemplate'. This is what Vaughan Williams does in 
Flos Campi. His music is always ruminative, i.e. there is thought 
going on behind the contemplation but it is never pursued to a 


conclusion: the sheer sensuous joy of contemplation is the prime 
fact. There is therefore no need to look for a connected chain of 
thought behind the six numbers of this suite for solo viola, voices, 
and small orchestra, nor to puzzle over the interconnexions of the 
quotations from the Vulgate which are their superscriptions. They 
contain the poetic imagery which the composer translates into 
music. The flower of the field of the title is not the lily as a symbol 
either of God's providence or of Solomon's love; it is the lily as a 
pure image. 

The lily is a delight to the eye. To behold it is a pleasure of sense. 
Among northern peoples there is oddly enough a mistrust of the 
senses amounting to fear. Oddly, because climate itself is an insur 
ance against those excesses which are feared. Nevertheless, some 
thing in our nature has provided the basis for a strong streak of 
Puritanism which in the alternate ebbing and flowing of social 
custom abides as a force in our lives. But farther south and farther 
east the direct pleasures of our highly developed bodies, the 
tingling reactions of our supersensitive nerves, the extreme delicacy 
of three of our five senses and reasonable efficiency of the other 
two, are prized among the supreme goods of life. Sensuality, the 
pursuit of these indescribable pleasures, is subject to no moral 
reproach; it is a wise fulfilment of capacities that would otherwise 
be wasted; it is an enrichment of life. European sensuality usually 
gets no farther than Vienna, with its abundance of sugar and spice 
and all things nice pretty girls and smart uniforms among them 
in the old days. Strauss represents in music the acme of this 
sensuality of escape from the nineteenth-century ideal of working 
hard and getting rich. And Vaughan Williams has little enough in 
common with Richard Strauss. But in Flos Campi he seeks to 
interpret the sensuality of the ancient, and in these respects un 
changing, East. It is in fact the most sensual work he has written, 
and the sensuous beauty of sound is of prime importance. He has 
therefore scored it for an orchestra in which every instrument 
retains its individual flavour to the utmost. One each of the wind 
makes an ensemble in which the individual flavours are never 
submerged in the ordinary orchestral tutti. There is a representa 
tive battery of the more exotic instruments a harp, celesta, 


triangle, cymbals, drum and tabor. And even more immediate in 
its direct appeal to the senses is the wordless chorus of twenty to 
twenty-six voices. 

The first performance of Flos Campi took place at Queen's Hall 
under Sir Henry Wood on 10 October 1925. It was performed at 
the Geneva festival of the International Society for Contemporary 
Music in April 1929. It has never achieved frequent performance. 

The actual stuff of the music is a progress from a keyless, 
rhythmless, arabesque-like melody signifying desire and longing 
for the beloved (amore langueo] : 

Ex. 1, 

Lento (sema 

* p Oboe 

to a diatonic, rhythmic, almost marchlike, theme, worked con- 
trapuntally in canon and imitation expressive of fulfilment (Pone 
me ut signaculum super cor tuum, 'Set me as a seal upon thy heart'). 

Viola - 

pp semphce 

No. I 

Sicut lilium inter spinas, sic arnica mea inter filias . . . Fulcite mefloribus, 
stipate me malts, quiet amore langueo. 

"As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters . . . 
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love.' 
(ii. 2 and 5.) 

N.B. Amore langueo does not mean what the words C I am sick of love' 
mean in modern speech. The Authorized Version means what the 
Latin means 1 faint from longing.* 

The opening passage of Flos Campi has been quoted in the 
seventh volume of the Oxford History of Music as an epitome of 
what modernism in music means, albeit the composer 'is not held 
to be an extremist of the modern school'. It is in simple two-part 
counterpoint, each tune in a different a different what? for 


neither 'key 5 , 'scale', nor 'mode' is an accurate description of the 
melodic organization actually employed. Here is the passage: 

Ex. 3. . 

'* Lenlo (senza misvral 

The oboe is playing in a sort of Dorian but gapped mode on E 
E seems to be the tonic rather than A because it is so strongly 
emphasized. The viola is playing in a something that feels like F 
minor, in spite of the prominent flattened supertonic, and is sub 
sequently confirmed as such. The mode on E and the mode on F 
not only produce an effect of a tug-of-war between two tonal 
centres but contain clashes between E natural and E flat, A natural 
and A flat. Colles compares this with the once iconoclastic prelude 
to Tristan and makes the following deduction about twentieth- 
century procedure as compared with the nineteenth: 

(1) A tune may be made on any series of notes, even on a scale 
constituted ad hoc (as here). 

(2) Two or more of such tunes may be heard simultaneously, 
each one built on a different scale, and without conforming 
to any agreed standard of consonance. 

(3) Rhythm is capable of infinite variety and need not be re 
ferred to any measurement by regularly recurring accents. 

This opening number is short and formally is as free as its 
rhythm. It is, in fact, a rhapsodic prelude. The counterpoint of 
singles-line melodies becomes a counterpoint of chords 6/35 
mostly in the treble and 8/ss without thirds mostly in the bass 
and the clash of mode is maintained, so that the second postulate 
above could be expanded to include the practice of substituting 
harmonic clusters for melodic lines which was initiated by 


Debussy. The harmonic clusters here appear immediately after 
Ex. 3 in the form of triads played softly on strings, as though they 
were an accompaniment to a long-held note on the viola, but they 
reappear kter on voices as one line of force maintained against a 
stream of counterpoint in the orchestra. This prelude is an example 
of a piece of music that relies for its unity, not on structural devices, 
but kinship of themes which grow one out of the other, and 
identity of mood. 

No. II 

Jam enim hiems transiit: imber abiit, et recessit; flores apparuerunt in terra 
nostra, tempus putationis advenit; vox turturis audlta est in terra nostra. 

'For lo the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear 
on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of 
the turtle is heard in our land/ (ii. u and 12.) 

An undulating figure at the end of I leads without a break into 
a pastoral movement. The viola is silent at first and the voices 
combine with strings. What emerges from the soft haze of sound 
is female voices passing to each other in anriphony this phrase: 



while underneath another theme stirs: 

Ex. 5. 


When the viola takes them up they have emerged into a long 
flowing melody: 


j J J -j 

*> Viola ~^~~^T^ 

Vrola p cantabile 

As spring awakens the tonality becomes a more whole-hearted G 
major and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land: 


> ** rri H i ir r ' r i 

Oboe p -^^mf ==^ P 


the same song of spring, be it observed, with a bolder contour and 
bigger intervals. The voices now take up Ex. 6 in unison, then the 
celesta does the same in chords of the sixth, and though the direc 
tions never indicate anything louder than piano except for a single 
solo entry of the viola, whose forte is immediately qualified with 
dolce, the score glows for a while and then dies down while the 
harp echoes a fragment of the theme in diminution. 

No. Ill 

Quaesivi quern diligit anima mea; quaesivi ilium et nan invent . . . 'Adjuro 
vos,filiae Jerusalem, si inveneritis dilectum meum, ut nuntietis ei quia amore 
langueo 9 . . . quo abiitdilectustuus, Opulcherrima muliemm? Quo declinavit 
dilectus tuus? ut quaeremus eum tecum. 

1 sought him whom my soul loveth, but I found him not ... "I 
charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, tell him 
that I am sick of love" . . . Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest 
among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek 
him with thee/ (iii. i, v. 8, vi. i.) 

The viola unaccompanied pursues its quest for the beloved in 
Ex. i transposed to a lower pitch. The female voices enter in three 
parts in a phrase that eventually becomes 


Then the voices take up an appropriate form of Ex. i, and vie 
with the viola in impassioned counterpoint that still rarely rises 
much above a murmur. 

No. IV 

En lectulum Sakmonis sexaginta fortes ambiunt . . . omnes tententes 
gladios, et ad bella doctlssimi. 

'Behold his bed which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about 
it ... They all hold swords, being expert in war.* (iii. 7 and 8.) 


The time has now come for greater vigour. Woodwind give 
out a march tune in characteristically bare fourths: 


Moderate alia marcia 

' ,1 ^ ' <* 


This is filled out in various ways, but the chords always remain 
triads moving in similar motion. The viola enters high up in its 
compass risoluto: 


The two themes are worked together and the voices enter to swell 
the volume of tone in the last four fortissimo bars. At the climax 
the scene changes. 

No. V 

Revertere, revertere Sulamitis! Revertere, revertere ut intueamur te . . . 
Quam puldiri suntgressus tui in calceamentis, filia prindpis. 

'Return, return, O Shulamite! Return, return that we may look 
upon thee . . . How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O Prince's 
daughter/ (vi. 13 andvii. i.) 

Two main ideas alternate in this, the most passionate section of 
the work, and the thread which binds them is the viola solo which 
draws for a legitimate artistic purpose on its powers of virtuosity. 
The first is a broad choral passage in seven parts 'appassionato 


and the second is a dirumming on the strings: 



/> u 


This second figure in changed harmonies and with the quavers 
appearing on different beats of the bar is repeated in alternation 
with Ex. n, until its speed is doubled and its constituent notes 
reduced to half their denomination while the voices sing agitato a 
new phrase: 

Ex, 13, 




After the climax j^this is sung again more slowly, and in a more 
varied rhythm, as the tension relaxes, and, after a cadenza from 
the viola, dies right away; underneath, the bassoons and the 
horns breathe the first hint of Ex. 2. 

No. VI 

Pone me ut signaculum super cor iuum. 
'Set me as a seal upon thine heart.' (viii. 6.) 

Ex. 2 is now taken up by one instrument after another through 
the orchestra, including the celesta and harp, which pky it in 
chords. The voices sing a counterpoint, nearly but not quite an 
inversion of it: 

Ex. 14. Moderate tranquilly 

The whole gamut of the orchestra is covered; the voices branch 
out into eight parts and the whole effect is broadened but without 


any great weight of tone. There is an interruption just before the 
end in which Ex. 3 is recalled in order to show the distance 
traversed, the problem solved, the satisfaction won. And then Ex. 
14 begins again, in harmony which continually approaches unison, 
the instruments fall away save for a solitary flute, and even that is 
silent before the end, which is left to the voices singing pianissimo 
with closed lips and the solo viola echoing a broken phrase of Ex. 2 
in the last bars of all. 

Sancta Civitas 

Sancta Civitas is the only work in Vaughan Williams's large 
output which can with any accuracy be described as a Biblical 
oratorio, and it is, even so, shorter than most works that come 
under that designation it takes a little over half an hour in per 
formance. Its text is drawn in the main from the Authorized 
Version with some excerpts from Taverner's Bible (1539). But 
here is no set-piece on Old Testament history such as had expired 
after a long run in ferry's Judith. Nor, though its subject is akin, 
is it in the newer dramatic form used by Elgar in The Dream of 
Gerontius. Its words are mostly from the Book of Revelation and 
its character places it among the group of Vaughan Williams's 
settings of apocalyptic words beginning with the Five Mystical 
Songs and extending to The Pilgrim 9 s Progress. Its subject is the life 
after death, as is hinted in the quotation from Plato on the fly 
leaf, and its vision is of the Holy City, where we hope to dwell 
with God. 

The quotation from the Phaedo, in which Socrates during his 
last hours is discoursing with his disciples about immortality, may 
be translated thus: 

No reasonable man ought to be dogmatic about the details of what 
I have just been through, yet something of the sort is the truth about 
our souls and their habitation after death, since in any event the soul 
appears to be immortal. So it seems to me that it is right and proper to 
take the risk of holding this opinion for risk is a fine thing and a 
man should, as it were, have it as a song in his heart and sing about it. 


The music that follows is TO snddew, the song of immortality. 
This 'song*, set out for three choirs and two soloists with orches 
tra, falls into three sections. The first section proclaims the vision 
of Heaven in terms of Revelation xix; the second deals with the 
destruction of Babylon, symbol of all that is worldly, as found in 
Revelation xviii; the third section is the City of God, as described 
in Revelation xxi. The composer's verbal omissions are masterly 
and the concentration both of sense and symbolism so obtained 
provides the tight nucleus upon which the music can hold and 
from which it can expand in a great incandescence of sound. 

The theme of the vision heard in the first and the last bars con 
sists of an upward progression in the bass (as in the London and 
Pastoral Symphonies) and swaying chords, each of which contains 
the dissonant interval of the major second: 







Against this theme repeated and expanded the baritone soloist 
begins f l was in the spirit and I heard a great voice saying Alleluia'. 
The Alleluias are taken up by semi-chorus and full chorus in an 
antiphony which immediately becomes a stretto; meantime the 
two chords of Ex. I begin to oscillate in quaver triplets. It is all 
quite quiet and short, hardly more than an introduction. A big 
choral section, as it were the first subject, is now announced by the 
distant choir with which is associated a solo trumpet. The key is 
A flat and the bass is a pedal point on C. To the hymning of the 
three choirs, the baritone soloist continues to add the visionary 
catalogue, the waters saying Alleluia and the adornment of the 
bride of the Lamb her fine linen being the righteousness of the 
Saints but the composer is not concerned with the interpreta 
tion of the symbolism; for him the symbols are sufficient. The 
distant chok and trumpet are heard again to complete the section. 
But Heaven has yet to be opened and Ex. i is recalled. The 
vision of the white horse is depicted in those strong diatonic 


harmonies of consecutive triads made austere with false relations 
that were to become the composer's constant idiom for paeans 
and visions: 

Ex. 2. , 

Allegro . 

J J) 

J J) 


J^~" J) 


J j 

J K J 

$ 4 f : g 

and be- 

, , i- f 

r ? 

hold a 




kfrf* : 




and ] 

F F 

be ihat 

J J 

r~ /F r 

sat / there -on 

/ J>J~ 

Lj t. J 

j I 


was called / 

Faith - fiil_ 

_ and,,-'' 


-j J y 

J >- 



This section develops to a big climax on triadic chords, echoed by 
the brass, for the words 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords'. A 
third section, originally assigned to the soloist but now always 
sung by the choir in unison over a terrific double pedal, describes 
the Angel standing in the sun and gathering the armies together 
for the destruction of Babylon. At the mere idea of war the 
triadic harmonies move in chromatic progression. The middle 
division of the work begins with another bass figure beneath 
oscillating chords but in a different tonality, a more acute harmon 
ization and with overlapping rhythm. 

Ex. 3, 

Lento tempo rubato 

The fall of Babylon is recounted in vigorous choral writing in 
imitation and antiphony between chorus and semi-chorus, where 
upon the distant choir and trumpet rejoice in the same terras, i.e. 
in A flat over a drum-roll on C, as when they had sung 'Alleluia*. 



After joy at the fall there is a lament for Babylon; the baritone 
soloist tells of the Angel and the millstone which he cast into the 
sea. The musical delineation of this is similar to that of the Angel 
in the sun, i.e. double pedal and chromatic descending triads. This 
alternation and recurrence of ideas gives to the work a strong 

But now the time has come for the vision of a new heaven and 
a new earth. The tempo changes to adagio, the key signature to 
E major, and a new melodic idea is announced by a solo violin, a 
presage of Elihu in Job: 


r, ** 


ft"'' J ^ u 

l*' JTT J TT I u ' l ^ 


M? VJ -' 







There are some harmonic clashes in the description of the 
precious stones which are harsh and were no doubt one of the 
factors that disturbed listeners to the first performance at Oxford 
in 1926 (of whom I was certainly one to be offended), and it is 
still permissible to- doubt whether 

really does sound as clear as crystal. A little further on there is a 
musical image, evoked by the idea of God Almighty needing no 
temple because he is his own temple, that is similar to the musical 
image in Job evoked by the Sons of the Morning before the 
Throne. It consists of swaying triads a tone apart with a high 
violin part above it coming down in cross-rhythm, (In Job the 
two elements are less tightly enmeshed.) 


The Heavenly City is described in a straightforward passage of 
choral writing with a sort of descant for orchestra over a slowly 
changing bass. But for the face of God and the light that emanates 
from it the music reverts to Ex. 4, all quite quiet. Quieter still 
is the return of the distant choir now singing 'Holy, holy, holy'. 
The other two choirs join in the hushed invocation and the glory 
of God comes to a blaze in a passage of greater animation and 
dynamic power. The trumpet, associated with the distant choir, 
remains, with its simple insistent call no loud uplifted trumpet 
this, but one afar off and mysterious. 

The last page reverts to Ex. i and the soloist, now a tenor, who 
has been reserved for this single phrase that he may sing the words 
"Behold I come quickly, I am the bright and the morning star' 
in a high clear voice, is answered in a whisper by the chorus 
'Amen, even so come Lord'. 

Three Short Choral Works for the Leith Hill 


The Hundredth Psalm; Three Choral Hymns; Benedicite 

In 1930 the Leith Hill (Dorking) Competition Festival cele 
brated its twenty-first birthday and Dr. Vaughan Williams, who 
has directed its destinies and conducted its concerts through the 
whole of its career until 1953, presented it with three new choral 
works, one for each 'division' into which the competing choirs 
are graded: The Hundredth Psalm for the lower division of village 
choirs, Three Choral Hymns for the higher, and Benedicite for the 
'Towns', i.e. the most accomplished singers of all. Each is scored 
for a normal full orchestra but can be performed with a modified 
arrangement of the wind parts or in a version for strings and piano. 

The Hundredth Psalm 

The Prayer Book text of the Psalm is used with the addition of 
a metrical doxology. The setting is for four-part chorus and no 
soloists are employed. The structure is extremely simple, consist- 


ing of five component sections corresponding to the five verses 
of the text, the harmony no more 'modern' than that of a late 
Victorian anthem except for a few false relations. At the same 
time several of the composer's characteristic idioms declare its 
authorship, notably the use of triads and a striding bass inde 
pendent of, and beneath, the vocal basses. These two features are 
apparent in the opening bars: 


Andante maestoso 

The voice parts entering a bar and a half later reproduce the 
rhythm and contour of Ex. i, suitably modified to fit the words 
*O be joyful in the Lord, all ye Lands'. At 'Come before his 
presence with a song' the movement of the parts becomes homo- 
phonic and the instruments are silent for the voices alone. This 
little section, embracing what we will term the first subject, is 
repeated immediately (with a different disposition of the parts). 
The second verse is a fughetta on 


Be ye 

that the Lord 

is God. 

The first subject is now repeated before the time changes to lento, 
the key of E minor to E major and the voices from counterpoint 
to unison: 

Ex 3. 

p sostenuto 


*^ O go your way in - to his gates with thanks giv - ing 

The voices get out of step for half a dozen bars of imitational 
entries but the section ends on a quiet unison. Now comes the 
most elaborate verse. 'For the Lord is gracious* suggests a pastoral 
rhythm enhanced by having its triplets set over against duplets in 


another part. The instruments begin in three-part counterpoint- 
slightly suggestive of moments in Job: 



.lit yt 

nte tran 



p cantabile ^ 

2 m 







-t=H h- 


1 ^ 

_^ r ~^ 

The voices enter in a leisurely manner one by one but as soon as 
they make more than two-part counterpoint among themselves 
the texture is kept loose by the orchestra becoming more har 
monic in style, and similarly when the voices begin to get into 
lines of chords the orchestra becomes more fluid. This does not 
entail however a constant and stable equilibrium: the movement 
of the parts builds both a climax and an evanescent cadence at 
the right moments. Ex. i is resumed to usher in the Doxology 
which is sung in unison to the tune of the Old Hundredth, as is 
fitting. The words are from Daye's Psalter of 1561, the work of 
William Kethe (they are to be found in the English Hymnal), who 
transferred this famous tune, hitherto assigned by Louis Bour 
geois for the use of the Genevan church to Psalm 134, to the words 
which have been associated with it indissolubly ever since. Dr. 
Vaughan Williams himself is convinced that it is of folk origin, 
being probably an amalgam of more than one tune (see National 
Music, p. 143). He made another setting of the Old Hundredth 
for use at the Coronation on 2 June 1953, which made history 
by providing the congregation with an official opportunity for 
active vocal participation in the ceremony. In this setting he used 
the harmony of John Dowland for one of the verses of the hymn. 
Dowland's harmonization appeared in Ravenscroft's Psalter of 

Three Choral Hymns 

The three hymns, which are separate but are often performed 
together as though they were a single work consisting of three 
variations on a single theme of Christian rejoicing, comprise a 


hymn for Easter, a hymn for Christmas, and a hymn for Whit 
suntide, all of them settings of words translated from the German 
by Miles Coverdale (1488-1569), Bishop of Exeter, who was one 
of the early translators of the Bible into English. All three have a 
refrain of which much structural use is made: that of the first and 
third is 'Alleluya' and that of the second 'Kyrie eleison*. There is a 
solo for a high baritone or tenor in the third hymn and in the 
Christmas hymn the vocal writing goes into six parts. Otherwise 
the hymns are for the most part written in straightforward four- 
part counterpoint with an accompaniment for ordinary full 
orchestra, though again several simpler alternatives are available. 

Each hymn has a well-defined structure and indeed shows more 
obviously than many of his works Vaughan Williams's grasp of 
form as an element of composition. Everything he does is, of 
course, planned or it would not hold together, but it often seems 
as though having something to say he says it and when he has said 
it stops as though he allowed the form to fit itself to the matter 
as it went along. In these hymns their formal plan may easily be 
discerned. One element in it has already been mentioned the 
refrain. Others may now be examined in order. 

The Easter Hymn is in the Dorian mode. The material of the 
refrain consists of two scale passages, one ascending, the other 
descending until the penultimate note which rises to the final: 



f~r~r i T ' i i j ^r^ 


/Al - le-lu - ya 

Ex. i, it will be noted, avoids its leading note and is indeed a 
hexatonic scale. The absence of the flattened seventh makes it a 
little less sombre and more easily kindled into a blaze without 
becoming commonplacely major when an F sharp is added 
the C being still omitted. This is done in the introductory refrain 
just before the first stanza of the hymn (altos and basses in octaves) 
begins. These figures are occasionally extended, Ex. 2 for example 


by a further descent to E before the rise to A, and both are used 
plagally as well as in the authentic form in which they first appear, 
as is necessary in writing for voices singing the same phrase whose 
ranges are a fifth apart. 
The hymn-tune itself is a good strong tune: 


Moderate . (a) 

is now ri - sen a - gain From his death and all his 

' ^LJ' ; - I r f ' M j I J' .HJ.JJ^J-H^r JT^TJ^ 

pain; Therefore will we mer-ry be And re - joice in Him glad-ly. 

The first phrase owes its sturdiness to its compass of a fifth and to 
its repetition with one tiny but important alteration (a) which 
introduces slurred notes for a touch of grace, a feature imitated in 
the third and fourth sections. Tonic and dominant are insistent 
throughout again a source of strength until the very end when 
the fourth of the scale is substituted for the dominant. In the 
second stanza which is sung a fifth higher by the sopranos and 
tenors the tune comes naturally to rest a fifth higher on the 
tonic. The final form of the tune, which is sung in unaccompanied 
four-part harmony, is modified, and in spite of a number of 
naturalized B's leans over heavily towards F major. The final 
'Alleluya' returns to Exx. i and 2 but is less Dorian in feeling and 
more a hexatonic D major (i.e. without the leading note) the 
signature is two sharps. The music grows more definitely D with 
every bar. First a C is added still natural then a G sharp pulls 
into A the dominant of D, and in the last two bars we have G 
contradicted and C sharpened, an honest D major that is saved 
from being conventional by having its cadence formed over a 
bass G-D, instead of a mere dominant-tonic A-D. 

The Christmas Hymn is appropriately enough in pastoral 
rhythm and straightforward F major. The germinal phrase is 

Ex. 4. Allegretto tranquitlo 

Ky - ri - e e - lei 


which informs also the tune of the hymn itself. There are seven 
verses and the swinging rhythm helps the tune to cover the 
ground more quickly than could a square, congregational type of 
tune like that of the Easter Hymn. Furthermore the refrain can be 
combined with the verses which are sung severally in order by 
sopranos only, by altos only, then by tenors and basses in unison, 
then by three female voice parts in harmony, and finally by 
mixed voices in four-part harmony without the accompanying 
refrain. The final 'Kyrie eleison' reverts to the matter of the 
opening but operating in the reverse dkection from loud to soft. 
The whole thing has expanded naturally out of the three-note 
phrase, Ex. 4, x. 

The Whitsuntide Hymn, which has four stanzas, is again based 
on two contrasting and combining musical ideas. The soloist 



Ho - ly Spi-rit most blessed Lord 

which shows the type of tune used for the hymn and the equilib 
rium between the tonalities of C and A (Aeolian) which is main 
tained alike in the four lines of the hymn-tune and in the refrain: 


The triplet is important, because when Alleluya is worked in 
stretto it imparts, so to say, a rolling motion to music which has 
already been inclined to it by the crotchet triplet in the hymn- 
tune. The thrust of two against three continually lifts the music 
into the air. The first two verses are sung by the soloist with an 
antiphony of the refrain (Ex. 6} after each line the tenors and 
basses entering to complete the first verse. The third verse is sung 
by female voices in four parts with the refrain transferred to the 


soloist; the last verse is sung by the full choir and the refrain post 
poned till the end, which moves decisively into C. Simple and 
compact, the hymn with its rolling Alleluyas suggests a vista of 
glory upon glory just as Luther's words 

O holy fyre, and comforth most swete 
Fyle our hertes with fayth and boldnesse 

glow with more than their literal meaning. Such is the Pente 
costal power of art. 


The Benedicite is the most elaborate of the three Leith Hill 
works, but it is a manageable cantata taking about twenty minutes 
in performance, grateful to sing and effective to hear. It is not 
surprising, therefore, that after its first performance at Leith Hill 
in 1930 and a magnificent performance at Queen's Hall under 
Adrian Boult, when the International Festival for Contemporary 
Music visited England in July 1931, it was widely taken up, and 
all the more frequently because its alternative scorings for small 
orchestra and for strings and piano facilitate performance by 
ambitious country choral societies of limited resources. 

The words are a slightly compressed and modified version of 
the familiar canticle of the Prayer Book Benedicite Omnia Opera, 
together with a poem by John Austin (1613-69). The music is 
continuous but is structurally organized in four sections corres 
ponding to two sections of the Benedicite, the poem 'Hark my 
Soul', and a recapitulatory summary of the Benedicite (the Works, 
the Powers, and the Earth). The beginning of the canticle sum 
mons the meteorological powers of the universe to the praise of 
God, after a few bars of introduction in which a simple figure 
strides over the bar lines and through the orchestra. Their 'praise' 
theme is announced by male voices: 

Andante con moto 
Ex. 1. 


/ O all ye works of ihe Lord, bless ye the Lord. 


This melodic germ subsequently appears in many forms. A second 
important 'praise theme* is assigned to the orchestra: 


"rsf 3rpj.ppp: e 

This is played over the purposeful tread of the bass instruments 
by the brass and by the pianoforte, which has a place in the score 
as a melodic instrument of percussion. It is also used extensively 
to give a hard edge to the tone of the basses, and it has one very 
important passage as an instrument of colour to illustrate the 
doxology of Nights and Days, Light and Darkness. The several 
ideas the Waters, the Winds, the Nights, and so on are not 
depicted with literal realism, but new figures are introduced at 
the main changes of idea and appropriate illustration is contributed 
by the more voluble instruments of the orchestra. 

The second section is introduced by an oboe solo, and the 
soprano soloist takes up the tribute of the Earth and its fruits to 
their Maker. The seminal motive of this section is the second part 
of the phrase: 



P O let the Earth bless the Lord. 

The soprano sings above the chorus in G minor and weaves a 
cantilena in and out of it. The choral writing begins as a unison, 
then develops into diatonic chords in contrary motion with the 
tenors and basses who sing in consecutive fifths in the manner 
much used by Vaughan Williams to give an effect of linear move 
ment. There follows a short unaccompanied section in simple 
harmony. The entry of the strings in rising scale passages imitated 
by the voices has a solvent effect and the key begins to change to 
a bright G major. The voices are again left to themselves singing 
praises pianissimo with only the oboe continuing its meditation 
and the drum affirming a cross-rhythm a rhythm which is the 
instrumental translation of 'Bless ye the Lord', soon to be actually 
sung by the chorus. The section ends in a sustained passage 


asserting the tonality of A. The signature is that of A major, but 
the soprano, duly followed by the other voices in imitation, sings 
a rhapsodic phrase in the pure Aeolian scale, plagal form, i.e. E to 
E, all natural, except for an alternate sharpening and naturalizing 
of the F. After some further hesitation between A major and A 
minor, a hesitation made the more piquant by the addition of the 
celesta to double the voices, it comes to an end on a bright chord 
of A major. The composer directs that if a celesta is not available 
the part must be omitted and must not be transferred to the 
piano, whose tonal functions, as already described, are specific and 
quite different from the ornamental effect required in this passage. 
The soprano soloist also introduces Austin's poem, but the 
chorus, still in four parts, breaks in almost immediately pianissimo 
with the governing motive: 


* Moderate > 

Egy^-g J-- J J I ^ * J ^ I 
Pg ** J ^ * ' * t 

Praise him, and mag - ni-fy Him. 
ppp leggiero 

The words of the poem and the 'praise' refrain are sung the one 
against the other by soloist and choir alternately, thus taking up 
the suggestion contained in the first verse. After a massive homo- 
phonic passage the end is a great unison in accordance with the 
suggestion in the next-to-last verse. 

Hark, my soul, how everything 
Strives to serve our bounteous King; 
Each a double tribute pays, 
Sings its part, and then obeys. 

Call whole nature to thy aid; 
Since 'twas he whole nature made; 
Join in one eternal song, 
Who to one God all belong. 

Live for ever, glorious Lord! 
Live by all thy works adored, 
One in Three, and Three in One, 
Thrice we bow to thee alone. 


The final summary is attached to the interpolated poem by a 
short section of blessing and magnifying founded on: 

Ex. 5. Tempo ddpnncipiQ 

* f 

It will be observed how closely related all these diatonic motives 
are to each other. Exx. i and 2 are recalled to summarize the 
canticle in three comprehensive phrases, thus biftding the work 
still more tightly into a unity by a brief, compressed recapitulation. 


It is not only the musical layout but the whole conception 
the literary conception, one might almost say that differentiates 
this Magnificat from those designed for liturgical use. The exultant 
emotions of the original poem have inevitably been blunted by 
their general application in a canticle that is sung in the daily 
service of the Church. It is a song of praise uttered by a woman at 
one of the great moments of history, and if there was nothing to 
be said on the other side it would be grotesque that it should be 
handed over to men and boys in starched surplices. Dr. Vaughan 
Williams's setting is more than a setting which aims at getting 
away from a conception blunted by centuries of routine and 
starched surplices, it is a presentation of the Annunciation from 
the Virgin Mary's point of view. It is, indeed, a characteristic 
example of his way of going straight to the heart of a situation 
with a directness that may be disconcerting but is seen on reflec 
tion to be perfectly natural. The layout is for contralto solo, 
female chorus, and orchestra in which a solo flute has a special part 
of symbolic significance to play. This Magnificat is dedicated to 
Miss Astra Desmond, by whom it was first sung at the Three 
Choirs Festival at Worcester in 1932. 

It will strike anyone who hears the work or looks at its score 
that Vaughan Williams has been influenced by his friend Hoist, 


whose way with mystical words or conceptions was to strike fire 
out of ice. Here are the swaying chords high up in the gamut 
which somehow depersonalize music c the Ode to Death and 
'Saturn* in The Planets by their relentless persistence in steady 
minims. Through them threads the sound of a flute hovering 
chromatically like the dove and suggesting the bird messenger 
also by the coolness of its tone. Voices in unison enter at the third 
bar and declaim the angel's greeting to Mary (St. Luke i. 28), 
which is interrupted by a flute cadenza (accompanied). The con 
tralto soloist immediately begins the Magnificat, imitating on the 
word 'magnify' the contours of the flute solo. The chorus, in four 
parts, again greets Mary 'Hail, Mary, full of grace; the Lord is 
with thee*, &c. Thus ends the first section, with the soloist singing 
"For he that is mighty hath done to me great things' and the 
chorus singing 'Blessed art thou among women 5 and the orchestra 
representing the general idea of magnitude. There is a pause and 
we pass from the idea of greatness to the idea of holiness. For no 
sooner has the soloist sung 'And holy is his name* than the flute 
begins a melisma 

* ~ 

which is very characteristic of Vaughan Williams for the expres 
sion of this kind of feeling. The idea is taken up at once by the 
chorus, which sings a Sanctus. The swaying chords had increased 
their span in the first section but had never stopped; nor now, 
though they change their rhythm. They do so, however, as the 
soloist passes on to the ideas of mercy (a string phrase in unison 
illumined with a celesta), strength (bare fifths on brass with Indian 
drum and timpani), and exaltation (a short, restless, staccato figure 
of three notes). The mercy phrase 



b !5 j j j n = 

* Cd^uHarn tf ^ g 

' Ceksxa,Harp 

& String 


is used again (with, modification) for the 'remembrance of his 
mercy', and is developed into a broad climax for the final words 
of tlie hymn. 

The swaying chords of the opening now return and the chorus 
takes up the angel's words 'Fear not, Mary*, which are sung in 
unison until the last words, "And of his kingdom shall be no end*, 
demand harmony and a great orchestral climax. Thus ends the 
second section; there is a break and the flute is heard once more 
playing its descending cadenza; Mary sings 'Behold the handmaid 
of the Lord' (St. Luke i. 38). Slow, swaying chords and an arpeg 
gio on the celesta spread serenity, and the chorus ends the vision 
of the Annunciation by singing 'Hail* on a bright but *niente' 
chord of the added sixth. 

Dona Nobis Pacem 

The cantata Dona Nobis Pacem was performed for the first time 
on 2 October 1936 by the Huddersfield Choral Society on the 
occasion of the centenary of that magnificent choir. Albert Coates 
conducted and the composer was present. The immediate im 
pression that it made was that, more than most works of art, it 
was a tract for the times. Vaughan Williams's artistic creed has 
always been that the composer must not live a life apart, that he 
must 'cultivate a sense of musical citizenship', that he must not 
'shut himself up and think about art, he must live with his fellows 
and make his art an expression of the whole life of the community*. 
No composer can help reflecting the spirit of his generation and 
environment, but Vaughan Williams is here combating the fallacy 
that inspiration may be had at second hand by imitating either 
distinguished foreigners or current fashions. His own music has 
always shown its derivation from his native soil and the daily life 
of his own time. But Dona Nobis Pacem goes beyond this. The dis 
tracted political life of the nineteen-thirties and its overshadowing 
fear of universal war are not here being used as a quarry for 
matter subsequently to be turned into art by recollection in tran 
quillity; rather it called for a pamphlet from a composer who is 


aware of the claims of his citizenship. Propaganda and art are 
sometimes thought to be incompatible, but he would be a bold 
critic who declared that The Trojan Women was not art because 
Euripides, like Vaughan Williams, was preaching in it a sermon 
against war. The fact is that the creative process can digest any 
mortal thing, use any subject-matter including propaganda, if it 
is intense enough. No doubt a high degree of intensity is required 
to absorb and integrate completely such strongly purposive matter 
as moral exhortation or political incitement, but it can do it. The 
plays of Bernard Shaw show almost every degree of success and 
failure in this particular aspect of artistic creation. 

If Dona Nobis Pacem fails artistically it is not for its tractarian 
character but rather because it is not a completely realized unity. 
It is a compilation of pieces written at two different periods but 
strung together on the thread provided by the title, "Give peace 
in our time, O Lord*, which is reiterated incessantly by the 
soprano soloist. This is not to deny that the central idea is strong 
enough to unify the component ideas of war, reconciliation, 
mourning, and the conquest of fear, only to doubt whether the 
internal balance and proportion are quite what they would have 
been had the work been designed in its entirety before any of the 
music was composed. In particular c The Dirge for Two Veterans', 
which was sketched as long ago as 1911, is just a little too long 
and too emphatic on a single facet of the theme of war to fit 
quite comfortably into the scheme. 

The first section is a prayer. The soprano soloist sings the old 
liturgical words Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi dona nobis pacem 
to an elastic theme of plainsong-like character which is capable of 
rising from a soft intonation to impassioned drama. The core of it, 
which is the leading motif of the work, is 


- na, do - - na,, do. - - na no - bis 



The orchestra has two bars' start of the voice, a chromatic pro 
gression of 6/4 chords in which there is a latent poignancy en 
hanced by a false relation with the voice. There is thus early a hint 
of emotional stress which almost immediately flames up into 
anguished, discordant appeals from the chorus. This is not a prayer 
for tranquillity but an urgent call for help against fear. The fear is 
imminent, for in less than fifty bars the drums are beating. 

The second movement thus introduced without a break is a 
setting of Whitman's 'Beat, beat, drums! blow, bugles, blow'. 
Whitman's brother was wounded in the Civil War and Walt 
himself worked in the Military Hospital at Washington while the 
war lasted. Drum Taps was the outcome of these war experiences. 
'Beat, Drums' is the third poem in the series and depicts the swoop 
of war upon the city, its ruthless overriding of all civil activities, 
the imperiousness of it which is deaf to all other claims, claims of 
age or youth or weakness; nothing whatever can withstand the 
clarion call of war. Over the drums the clarion call is reiterated: 


Trumpets routed ffsmi unramcd jDrTrbs } 

The words are declaimed by the voices, often in bare fourths 
doubled at the octave, while the orchestra pounds away relent r 
lessly, sometimes in syncopation, sometimes in imitation of the 
trumpet call, sometimes in restless repetitions of short figures. The 
clangour finally dies away, and the drum figure in the course of 
half a dozen bars changes its shape to an innocuous syncopated 
accompanimental figure in this predominant rhythm: 

Ex.3. A J . 


The calming effect of this figure is increased by the melody drawn 
above it, which, starting austerely in the Phrygian mode, is gradu 
ally sweetened into E major. The moment when the F in Ex. 3 is 
sharpened marks the second stage in the healing process; the full 



chord of E (with the third doubled for emphasis) opens the way 
for the baritone soloist to begin the poem Reconciliation: 

Word over all, beautiful as the sky, 

Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly 

That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly, softly wash 

again, and ever again, this soiTd world. 

At the words 'this soil'd world' the composer repeats in root 
position the plagal cadence which had been the signal for the 
baritone entry: 

This soil'd 


Slrmgs ' " x ""*" 

J J ittu | 

Words and music (suitably expanded) are repeated by the chorus, 
and the antithesis of mode and key is its decisive feature. The 
baritone completes the short poem in which the soldier and his 
dead enemy, *a man as divine as myself', are reconciled in spirit, 
after which the chorus again sings of the 'Word over all' and 'this 
soil'd world', now in eight-part harmony. The last word of all is 
with the soprano soloist breathing the prayer for peace, Ex. I. 

The fourth section can be detached and sung separately, but 
there is a Segue in the score at the beginning and end to secure for 
it the central position in the cantata. It is a setting of 'The Dirge 
for Two Veterans', and is naturally a funeral march into which 
the words are fitted without disturbing the steady forward pro 
gress of the cortege bearing the bodies of the 'two veterans, son 
and father, dropped together'. 

The march tune is this: 


Modewto alia marcia 

1 r if- r F'"i 


and the first verse a choral expansion of it. The second verse (about 
the moon) is given to women's voices. At the third verse (*I see a 
sad procession') the four parts sing a new tune beginning in unison 
but breaking into swaying harmonies at the call of the 'full- 
keyed bugles' Whitman apparently knew that the keyed bugle 
will give a chromatic scale and will certainly permit of the diatonic 
passage Dr. Vaughan Williams has written here in illustration of 
its sonorous fanfares. Then the drums are invoked by poet and 
composer alike. At the words 'And the strong dead-march en 
wraps me' the voices break off and the orchestra pkys fortissimo 
a broad martial strain in C major recalling for a moment the 
grandeur of the Dead March in Saul but not remaining in the key 
long enough to resemble it or to interrupt the sequence of the 
poet's thought. When the voices resume they return to the mood 
and the figuration of the second verse. The tonal balance now in 
clines to the flat side, but pulls back again through a strong mixo- 
lydian, and momentarily unaccompanied, passage based on D. 
Finally, the poet recapitulates the scene, the moon giving its light, 
the bugles their music, and he in turn offers to the veterans the 
love of his heart in this simple but moving cadence, which may 
be compared with Ex. 4. 

r, u f 

p My heart gives you love. 

Thus the music has come home to A minor, and the march, Ex. 5, 
is recalled: (b) is the first to be literally recapitulated, but (a) is 
heard last of all on the trombone as the march dies away. 

With the fifth section the mind is now turned from death to 
wards the positive ideal of peace. But not all at once, though 
Whitman is now abandoned for John Bright and the Bible. The 
baritone soloist over the barest possible accompaniment in the 
bass declaims parlando some words of Bright about the Angel 
of Death. 


The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land; you may 
almost hear the beating of his wings* There is no one as of old ... to 
sprinkle with blood the lintel and the two side-posts of our doors, that 
he may spare and pass on. 

Upon this the chorus and the soprano soloist break with an 
almost frantic prayer for peace, dona nobis pacem, and to ask 
with increasing urgency whether there is no help at hand. The 
answer is found in the Book of Daniel and the baritone soloist 
delivers the message of comfort and reassurance. Whereupon the 
whole character of the music changes, and from this theme is 
evolved an exultant movement (Ex. 7). 

Ex. 7. Andante molto sostewto 

r .r r f f 

p Na - lion shall not lift up a sword a - gainst na - tioa, 

nei - ther shall they karn war a - ny more, 

The square phrase-marks seem to exert a pull against the natural 
accentuation of the words, so that the music soars as a kite does 
against the pressure of the wind. Ex. 7 forms the basis of a contra 
puntal vocal texture against which the orchestra puts an accom 
paniment of increasing exuberance, notably a bell-like figure that 
ultimately summons bells and other instruments of percussion to 
take part in the triumphal paean. Ex. 7 meantime shows consider 
able versatility: by altering the time-value or the accentuation of 
some of its notes it proclaims a new heaven and a new earth in 
unison, and by changing from four to three time it provides a 
bass for a Gloria in excelsis of great animation. The cantata, how 
ever, does not end with bells ringing and voices raised in loud 
praises but in the softly repeated prayer for peace, Ex. i, over 
low-pitched and subdivided chords. Finally, only the soprano 
voice is left dying away into inaudibility according to the word 
'niente* which is found at the end of the majority of Vaughan 
WilHams's scores. 


Five Tudor Portraits 

There is a story to the effect that it was Sir Edward Elgar who 
suggested to Dr. Vaughan Williams that he might find a text to 
his taste and temperament in the poems of John Skelton (1460- 
1529), attaching to the recommendation a hint that it would give 
him the opening for a use of jazz. Dr. Vaughan Williams accepted 
the suggestion and bore the hint in mind when describing the 
gossip Alice in "The Tunning of Elinor Rumming'. He found 
five principal characters for musical delineation: the raffish Elinor, 
pretty Bess, the cantankerous clerk John Jayberd, the imaginative 
schoolgirl Jane Scroop, and hearty Rutterkin (a composite per 
sonality). These portraits are very early Tudor, for Skelton was a 
man of twenty-five before the Wars of the Roses came to an end 
and he died half-way through the reign of Henry VIE. Jayberd 
is dated he died in 1506. 

Skelton was a man of vigorous personality, for his career was 
as stormy as his verse is lively. According to Caxton he was 'late 
created poet laureate in the University of Oxenforde', an honour, 
probably worth no more than a doctorate, which he also received 
from Cambridge. He may also have been laureate to Henry VTQ, 
for he was his tutor before he came to the throne. Certainly he 
was a leading light in the literary world of the time, for Caxton 
pays a tribute to his skill and command of language as shown by 
his translation of Cicero's Letters and the History of Diodorus 
Siculus 'in polished and ornate terms'. 'I suppose', adds Caxton, 
'he hath drunken of Helicon's well/ He was ordained in 1498 but 
seems to have got into trouble four years later and been imprisoned. 
However, in 1504 he became rector of Diss in Norfolk and 
apparently gave up court life and turned to satirizing it. He 
scandalized his parishioners and fell foul of his bishop; finally, to 
escape arrest at the hands of Cardinal Wolsey, whom he continu 
ally attacked in pamphlet and satire, he took sanctuary in West 
minster Abbey where he was kindly received by the abbot and 
allowed to die in peace. During the rest of the Tudor period his 


name became proverbial for farcical jocularity, though many of 
the stories told of him were no doubt apocryphal. But his quality 
is apparent: downright yet racy, pungent yet perceptive, copious 
and robust, clever and outspoken with each of these traits he is 
calculated to make an appeal to Vaughan Williams and to evoke 
responses from his many-sided art. 

Five Tudor Portraits is a choral suite drawn from various of 
Skelton's poems. It is scored for foil orchestra, butitis also arranged 
to facilitate performance for smaller alternative accompaniments. 
Two soloists, a mezzo-soprano (or contralto) and a baritone, are 
required. Miss Astra Desmond and Mr. Roy Henderson were the 
singers at the first performance at the Norwich Festival on 25 
September 1936, as at the first London performance at a B.B.C. 
Symphony concert at Queen's Hall on 27 January 1937. The com 
poser himself conducted at Norwich, Sir Adrian Boult the London 

'The Tunning of Elinor Rumming' comes first. It makes an 
effective opening Allegro of reasonable length it pkys twelve 
minutes. The lady in question kept an ale-house at Leatherhead, 
still in existence, called now *The Running Horse' and bearing 
Elinor's portrait on its walls. The picaresque ballad is written in 
short lines averaging six syllables each, rhyming in twos, threes, or 
fours, but also bubbling with the alliterations of older English 
verse. The first of its five sections is devoted to a description of 
'this comely Jill'. She has a motto: 

Fx 1 

Alkgn> pewnte 

f\ A 4 j^' HJ 

* // -*t* 

whose tonality is about as straightforward as the lady's moral 
character ('the devil and she were sib' 1 ). This motto, it need 
hardly be said, is not threaded through the score in any per 
vasive Wagnerian way. It asserts itself from time to time, just as 
its nominee put her foot down in her own ale-house, but its 
rhythm is influential and shapes the opening measures of many 

1 Sib = akin. 


a sub-section on voices and instruments. The narrative starts off 

Tell you I will, 

If that you will 

Awhile be still 

Of a comely Jill 

with a tune of the once-upon-a-time cut: 

*& T S* TeU you * wm > If lha: ye wm a wMe ** sim 

jf marcato 

The time remains in 3/4 for the whole of the first section, but 
the voices frequently enough step over the bar-lines. The bass 
keeps up a quick one-two-three, varied by a waltz rhythm, while 
the orchestra takes to a 'moto perpetuo' of quavers that breaks 
down finally into a brisk orchestral statement of Ex. 2 as the poet 
rounds off the first part of his description with the words "Her 
youth is far past'. But then he repents and some of her more 
feminine characteristics are recalled her clothing, for instance, is 
described. To this change of mood the composer responds with a 
quieter tune marked grazioso, Ex. 3. 



*> Strings and Woodwind 

Through all this description no name or address has been 
attached to the lady. This is now done, after an abrupt break from 
E flat major to E minor, and the music reverts to Exx. i and 2, 
thus rounding off the first section in ternary form. 

The second section of the narrative deals with the people who 
resort to her house for the sake of her nappy ale', which she sells 

To travellers, to tinkers, 
To sweaters, to swinkers, 
And all good ale drinkers. 

The time is changed to 9/8 and the music passes rapidly through 
a number of well-defined keys, beginning in B minor, going on 


through D minor and G minor (with sevenths mostly flattened), 
and then, twisting suddenly into C major ('With all their might 
running') and A major ( To have of her tunning'), it pursues a 
swift course through F, E flat, C, B flat, and ends in broken 
fragments of a tune that is related to Ex. i: 


They have drunk up my swill-ing tub ! 

though the theme that has done most of the work of the section 
is this one: 


which in suitable modifications suggests not only the volubility 
of the verse but the haste of the would-be drinkers. 

Many of these clients are not good pay and the hostess ejects 
them. Her next customer is no more profitable, but asks for a free 
drink of stale ale in return for the gossip she brings. She is intro 
duced by a bassoon cadenza and is personated by the contralto 
soloist, who has some realistic hiccups and hesitations. Piccolo, 
muted trumpet and horn, as well as more ordinary wind-instru 
ments, chatter with her, till she finally rolls off to sleep to the 
crooning of two bassoons in a low register. All of which is, except 
for the placing of the rests in the vocal line, as hearty and unsubde 
as the text. 

'Now in cometh another rabble', who start a drinking chorus: 


Allegro livace 

He ? and with Ho! Sir we down a -row, And drink rill we 

The dotted note rhythm of (a) is taken up by the orchestra and 
worked without ceasing to the end of the section. Drums are 



added to give further force to its rollicking progress, and the 
chorus bellows 'tirley-tirlow' to the climax. Ex. i abruptly follows 
and the poet says his fingers itch because he has written too much, 
so he makes a speedy end. 'Thus endeth the geste* with a hint of 
Ex. 2 for the voices and fragments of Ex. I thrown to the ground 
with a cktter by the orchestra. 

'Pretty Bess', which follows, is described as an Intermezzo. It 
is short (four minutes) and purely lyrical. In it the function of the 
chorus is to echo the baritone soloist, whose love-song it is. After 
a quiet, lilting little phrase on the oboe, which hovers, as does the 
whole of the first verse, between G major and E minor, the 
baritone begins his song: 

Ex. 7. , .. 

Allegretto gr&ziow 

My pro-per Bess, My pret-ty Bess, Turn once a - gain to me, to 

me ! For sleep - est thou, Bess, Or wak - est thou, Bess, 

Mine heart 

with thee, with ihee 

The chorus takes up the last line after him with an accompaniment 
so slight that it fades right out for a bar or two. The oboe phrase 
introduces the second verse, for which a modulation is made to a 
mixture of B minor and D major. The chorus echoes the last line 
of each verse, but the soloist no longer waits for them to finish, 
but sings his fourth verse while they are echoing the third. The 
last verse is a repetition of the first, and soloist and choir are still 
singing quietly and happily together as the harmony closes into 
G major. 

The lively third movement of the suite is a burlesque: it might 
be regarded as the Scherzo were that term not reserved for the 
Finale. 'The Epitaph on John Jayberd of Diss' provides a taste of 
the scorching side of Skelton's tongue. It is a trental (Le. a com 
memorative requiem mass so called either because there were 
thirty of them or because the commemoration was observed 


thirty days after burial) in rhyming, monldsh Latin, interrupted 
with English phrases to enhance its satiric intention with comic 
incongruity. This John Jay herd he apparently had other names 
was a clerk (presumably in holy, not minor, orders, as he is 
described as 'sanctus iste pater') and recognized as such by the 
clergy, but had not the character fitting to that condition he 
was double-hearted and double-tongued, a storm-centre of malice 
and strife. He died in 1506 but the two years that Skelton knew 
him seem to have been long enough to establish a cordial dislike 
for him, and the whole poem is an invitation to rejoice at his 
decease. Men's voices only are employed. The opening bars are 
an instrumental version of 

Sc - qui - lux 

tri - gin - la - k Ta - k, qua - k ra - tioo - a. - 

which shows the general method of treatment. The pace pulls up 
at the first English words 'God forgive him his misdeeds', and the 
rime changes to 6/8 with the strong accents marked by a whiff of 
brass. This is to suggest the drinking-song that is now proposed to 
celebrate the fact that he is really and truly dead. But the old 
movement is resumed as the mind reverts to the moral qualities 
of the departed. Again, when the poet comes back to the fact that 

Jamjacet hie stark dead 
Never a tooth in his head, 

the music pulls up with a glissando of an augmented seventh 
followed by a scale passage through the same interval, and turns 
as before into a kind of acrid C sharp minor. The kst section 
returns to Tempo Primo and a group of tonalities which average 


out round C but turn into F for the parody of the sacred office 
which ends this pre-Reformation skit on the clergy and their ways: 


' Maestoso 

-j Y- H 

sc - cu - la sc-cu-lo - - - - - - rum. 

// r " --" 

* H* * ^ * ^- -tf- 

The fourth number, described as a Romania, is the longest of 
all and takes over twenty minutes in performance. Its subject is 
Jane Scroop and the lament she uttered for the death of her tame 
sparrow, Philip. It is a long poem which, after relating the melan 
choly facts of the bird's demise at the hands of 'Gib, our cat', 
elaborates the theme of 'Who killed Cock Robin?' All the birds 
of the air have their parts assigned to them for Philip's funeral 
there is also an instrumental interlude, a bird symphony, provided 
for their assemblage and at the end Jane recites portions of the 
Latin office for the dead. 

At first sight the story with its element of exaggeration looks 
like a mock-heroic, and perhaps the quotations from the Requiem 
Mass recall by simple association the mockery of the previous 
'Epitaph'. Dr. Vaughan Williams does not take this view of it. 
'There is no justification, I think, for describing these touching 
words as a "Parody". Jane saw no reason, and I see no reason, why 
she should not pray for the peace of her sparrow's soul. 5 And this 
view, which he expressed in the programme-book of the B.B.C.'s 
concert, is supported by a reminder of who Jane Scroop was. She 
was a little girl at school with the Black Nuns of Carrow, near 
Norwich. Little girls are sincerely attached to their pets; when 
they were still younger they played at church or at funerals, and 
they might very well continue to imitate their elders in the details 
of the conventual life. In perfect simplicity Jane might bring all 
the resources of her child mind to an event that loomed large to 
her. At any rate this is the view which the composer takes of 
words which show that Skelton had a delicate imagination as well 
as shrewd observation and forcible expression. It has the advan 
tage from the musical point of view that the element of mockery 


can be eliminated, and music is not good at mocking it can 
express practically anything but simulate almost nothing. (The 
hypocrites in Job and the crocodile tears in Gianni Schicchi are 
both helped out in their music by stage presentation.) 

The music opens 'lento doloroso' with a passage for solo violon 
cello, over which the woodwind sighs. We are to suppose a 
funeral procession of Jane and her companions bringing the coffin 
and chanting words from the funeral service. This is given to the 
chorus (women's voices only), but when Jane begins to speak for 
herself of her sorrow the mezzo-soprano soloist takes on her 



When I re - mcm-ber a - 'gain, How my Phi - lip was slain. 

Ne - ver half the pain Was be-tween you twain a Py-ra-mus 

G, A, B flat, the voice goes round and round in unavailing and 
unconsoled grief, rises in a cry to E flat, and then back again to 
the same interval of a minor third. Then with the help of the 
chorus she calls for vengeance on the whole race of cats. After 
this Jane falls to describing Philip and his pretty ways, and her 
grief is so far mollified as to permit her to change from G minor 
to G major. This tender passage harmonized in diatonic sevenths 
and ninths recalls some of the love-music of The Poisoned Kiss, 
but as the bird's antics when he saw a wasp or an ant are des 
cribed the time is quickened, the piccolo adds a skittish note, and 
there are various chirrupings in the orchestra. Then the happy 
memory is shattered by the wails of the chorus and the funeral 
music of the opening returns. 

Now foEows the symphony of birds the most original writing 
in the suite. There is a trumpet-call summons and Jane bids come 
'All manner of birds in your kind'. For a couple of pages the air is 
filled with the sound of them gathering together, then the chorus 


begins to go through the list, assigning to each what he is to do: 
the robin redbreast to be the priest and sing the requiem 'with the 
help of the reed sparrow', here there is an allusion in the bass to 
the Dies Irae; the popinjay to read the Gospel, the mavis the 
Epistle; the phoenix to bless the hearse with thurification, and 
mourners to raise their various voices to the number of a round 
thirty, all characterized on harp and wind. Philip's own little 
tune, which was heard when he was first mentioned by name, is 
now recalled: 



L-T Ik - 

r [fr * T |T d 



Cd For he was apret-ty cock and came of a gen-ile stock. 

P legguro 

The intervals are now less poignant than at its first statement, 
as befits the more tranquil emotional situation: the body has been 
committed to the earth, the soul to the mercy of Heaven. The 
last words are a soft farewell. 

The Finale is short (four minutes) and is hardly more than a 
kick-up to recall the high spirits of the opening and give a brilliant 
finish to the suite. The text is a combination of the three-verse 
poem Jolly Rutterkin and a song out of the morality play Magni 
ficence. The composer justifies his association of the ragamuffin 
Rutterkin with a gentleman who is 'Properly dressed, all point 
devise' by the fact that the character who sings the song in the 
pky has immediately before quoted a line of Jolly Rutterkin. 
'Rutterkin' is derived from 'Rutter', a German cavalry soldier, 
and hence came to mean a swaggering gallant, a description that 
covers both characters and serves to make them one. 

This Scherzo, officially so called, opens with a trumpet-call: 

Ex. 12. Allegro moderate 

/") q. 

f risohito 

and the substance of the music is made out of this by breaking it 
down into rhythmic figures of various shapes for the accompani 
ment, by using its appoggiatura motifs (a) for 'Hoyda', and by 


sounding all the notes together as a sharp, penetrating chord. 
The chorus opens with the refrain 

Hoyda, Jolly Rutterkin, hoyda! 
Like a rutter hoyda. 

The baritone soloist sings the words of the second song, lightly ac 
companied except for the interjections of the refrain by the chorus: 

Ex. 13. 

What now, lei see, who look-eth on me Well round a - bout, How 


gay and how stout That I can wear court - ly my gear.. 

In more than fifty bars there is not an accidental to weaken the 
downright vigour and simplicity of this hexatonic tune and its 
wholly congruent accompaniment. A passing At] slips into one 
of the choral interjections, but its effect is momentary and the 
tune with its choral imitations rattles on after that for another 
twenty bars without a single other allusion to that one foreign note 
in the gapped mode so consistently employed. A page or two of 
the earlier music based on Ex. 12 rounds off the movement in 
ternary form and brings the suite to its end on a robust note. 

There is nothing new of a technical nature in this suite, except 
perhaps the Bird Symphony. One catches occasional reminders of 
Sir John in Love and other earlier works where passing moods or 
expressions evoke the same kind of treatment. But, as always with 
Vaughan Williams, the work as a whole marks an advance into 
new country. Skelton's temper embraces shades of feeling that 
have not before found expression in Vaughan Williams's music. 
Its cheerful secularity is something new outside his stage works. 
It is playful in character and brilliantly successful in performance. 
The ruminative note is absent, but its animation finds adequate 
relief and contrast in the lyrical portions. It has caught the bursting 
vitality and the gaiety of Tudor England. It is one more testimony 
to the rich humanity of the composer's mind and to his astonish 
ing versatility. 



Fantasia on the Old lotfh Psalm Tune 

The Fantasia on the Old I04th Psalm Tune is an experiment, 
not wholly successful, in form. It is in essence a set of variations 
for piano solo with orchestral accompaniment and choral obbli- 
gato. Its only analogue is Beethoven's Choral Fantasia, in which 
he anticipated his own Choral Symphony. It was written for the 
Gloucester Festival of 1950, where the solo part was played by 
Michael Mullinar with Dr. Herbert Sumsion as conductor. Its 
first London performance was at the St. Cecilia Festival at the 
Albert Hall in the following November. 

The piano writing is not very grateful, being rather thick and 
dwelling for considerable stretches in the lower octaves of the 
keyboard. The balance between choir and piano has proved 
difficult to strike in practice, since the piano part tended to dis 
appear when there was much movement in the vocal parts. At 
the second performance some of the piano writing in the last 
variation was cut in order to relieve the texture where it was most 
opaque. There are seven variations in all, of which two are for 
piano alone; in the other five the chorus sings verses i and 2 and 
verses 31, 32, and 33 of Psalm CIV. There is an Introduction in 
which the piano evolves the tune out of its chief motif of four 
notes. The theme is then stated by the piano alone in very full, if 
not very orthodox, harmonies. 

The tune, commonly sung to 'Disposer supreme', comes from 
Ravenscroft's Psalter of 1621, 

]' Hi I i|i i H 1 ' 'I i Hi l| I MMJIJ i.nj ii 

and is said to be not a Genevan but an English tune, possibly 
Ravenscroft's own and certainly harmonized by him. The words 


are in the metrical version of Sternhold and Hopkins (c. 1550) 
according to which the second verse runs: 

With light as a robe Thou hast Thee beckd, 
Whereby all the earth Thy greatness may see. 
The heavens in such sort Thou so hast spread 
That they to a curtain compared may be. 

In the first variation to the first verse of the Psalm the choir has 
a version of the tune ornamented with little four-note flourishes 
over simple harmonies in quaver motion, while the piano plays 
an even more highly ornamented version of the tune and the 
orchestra a much simpler harmonization. In the second variation 
for piano alone the writing is varied freely from line to line of the 
tune, beginning with the romantic type of arpeggio in the left 
hand, going on to parallel sixths, thence to ornamental triplets 
in the right hand and so on in a free, quasi-improvisatory manner. 
In the third variation the chorus sings the tune in unison while 
the piano continues the same sort of writing though with fatter 
chords. Variation four is a fugato for voices without piano, until 
it too is given an entry in heavy double octaves. The fifth variation 
is in the style of a cadenza for piano alone. In variation six the 
voices are again in unison while the orchestra carries the har 
monies and the piano, with hands encompassing the extremes 
of the keyboard, plasters it all with great chords. In the seventh 
and last variation the voices sing flowing counterpoint which 
is largely doubled by the orchestra, and the piano silenced (in 
the revised version) until the final paean. 

This is not a major work but it sets the bells ringing with that 
diatonic play round a few notes of the scale which seems to be 
Vaughan Williams's personal secret. 

An Oxford Elegy 

The first performance of An Oxford Elegy was given with in 
evitable propriety in Oxford. It was sung, recited what is the 
word for it? in the hall of Queen's College on 19 June 1952, 


when Sir Steuart Wilson was the Speaker. It was repeated at the 
composer's birthday concert at Dorking in the following autumn, 
when Cecil Day Lewis, Professor of Poetry at Oxford, was the 
Speaker. The Speaker is the soloist in what is otherwise a choral 
work with small orchestra (flute, oboe, cor anglais, two clarinets, 
bassoon, two horns, and strings). The words which he declaims, 
sometimes unaccompanied but more usually against a background 
of the orchestra or of wordless chorus, are taken from Matthew 
Arnold's two poems, at once topographical, philosophical, and 
elegiac, The Scholar Gypsy and Thyrsis. The composer has abridged 
them to make one continuous text. The music is a recasting of an 
attempt made to set the poems half a century earlier. 

The choice of a reciter rather than a light baritone to intone 
the poems is the composer's final solution of the problem pre 
sented by the poems. Problem there must be, for it is strange that 
in a hundred years no composer had been stimulated to set words 
with so strong a pull on the heart-strings, so characteristic of their 
time in their ethos. Perhaps Parry was too robustly optimistic in 
temperament to tackle their gentle pessimism, but their agnosti 
cism should have tempted him, not to mention their topographical 
significance, which is an equally important ingredient in their 
wistful, insistent appeal. 

The conjunction of the speaking voice with music is never 
satisfactory for the listener, who perforce must try to be attentive 
on two different planes at once. Yet it constantly tempts com 
posers to use it in situations where words are necessary but singing 
is ill-suited to their purpose because it is too slow and not suf 
ficiently dry in sound. Singing is such a business and singers make 
such a business of it. A voice, even a male voice, trying to ky 
upon a fully saturated stream of musical tone a long narrative or 
a philosophical disquisition The Scholar Gypsy is both would 
spoil the gentle movement of Arnold's words and it would inter 
fere with their sense. And so the speaking voice is the chosen 
vehicle, though Sprechstimme would be better. What seems to be 
needed is a kind of recitative very lightly voiced and deliberately 
un melodious as far as pitch intonations are concerned. Such 
would avoid the unaccommodating antithesis of speech and 


musical tone. There are however in the Elegy passages, notably 
those evocative of summer fields and flowers or of winter cold, 
where this ill-sorted marriage seems happy. 

The composer's intention is to distil in music the chief elements 
of Arnold's two Oxford poems, which seem eminently fitted for 
musical treatment. Mr. Ernest Newman, in an article 1 tinged 
with unusually frank devotion to the poems, suggests that they 
ought to have done for some English composer what Holderlin 
did for Brahms in the Schicksalslied. Brahms was more of a stoic 
than Arnold, but the Angst of the nineteenth century, different 
from our own because cushioned with peace and prosperity, ran 
to melancholy pessimism or idealistic disillusionment, and it is 
easy to see what Mr. Newman means, and also perhaps why it is 
that he himself finds Arnold so congenial. Following this line of 
thought he goes on, in an examination of what Vaughan Williams 
has done to the text of the two poems by way of omission, 
transposition, and change of emphasis, to express the respectful 
view that Vaughan Williams has deliberately distorted Arnold's 
thought in order to bring into greater prominence for his own 
purposes Arnold's emotion for Oxford. The choice of tide is 
confirmation that there is something in this idea. 

So much of the music exhales a ruminative melancholy ex 
pressive of Arnold's mental attitude to life that one may question 
whether Vaughan Williams is after all very wide of the mark, 
though Mr. Newman's is a point of substance. 'Oxford qua 
Oxford plays a larger part in his imaginative scheme than it does 
in Arnold/ he writes. True enough, but the topography and the 
philosophy are so inter-engaged the amalgam is indeed the main 
source of the emotional appeal of the poems that you cannot 
have one without the other. The Scholar Gypsy, that figure from 
GlanviTs Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661) whom Arnold took to 
serve as his symbol of the quest for truth, does in an extraordinary 
way represent one of the mysteries of Oxford the 'secret which 
none can utter' of another poet. Youth pours through the uni 
versity seeking truth in the rigour of learning, and then in its 
leisure goes off into the Berkshire Hills and to the Upper River, 
1 The Sunday Times, 12 April 1953. 


where it finds the simple life and meets the genius loci. It is in 
youth that the appalling facts of life and death, the heights and 
depths of human destiny, first break upon the expanding mind, 
and whatever other philosophies, Christian, Stoic, or Nietzschean, 
are drawn on to counteract the shock, the young mind becomes 
adult in a way that Arnold portrays with an unerring psychology. 

I hesitate to obtrude a paragraph in the first person singular in 
a book which has consistently tried to discuss music in the most 
objective way that its subject-matter permits, but I have known 
Oxford and Arnold's poems from boyhood and I recognize in 
them, as I did long before I knew anything about Arnold's 
qualified pessimism, the authenticity of the poems' feelings and 
doctrine. The feeling and the doctrine are one. The thought is of 
the kind that one thinks with the heart as much as the brain as 
his critics did not fail to point out. I have known the Scholar 
Gypsy's haunts from childhood, the Wytham flats and the three 
lone weirs, of which one, no longer a weir but a footbridge, is 
only a mile downstream from my home in the country. Arnold's 
evocations of these places express for me the thought of the poem, 
and the thought of the poem, I perceive, is influenced by the 
genius loci. If Parry had set the poems he would have concentrated 
on the 'unconquerable hope* and the 'inviolable shade'; Vaughan 
Williams leaves them out altogether. Vaughan Williams is more 
mystic, or seer, than Parry, who was more of a thinker. If Vaughan 
Williams was to get to the heart of the poems it would be by way 
of those evocations of field and tree and river, and not, as it 
would have been by Parry, through the method of the ethical 
cantata in splendid choral part-writing. Much of Vaughan 
Williams's choral writing is wordless. 

The method then is justified, whatever criticism may have to 
say of the quality of the music, or of the success of the piece as a 
work of art. 

Since most of the words are entrusted to the Speaker most of 
the music is orchestral commentary on them, pastoral in character 
and rhythm, rather emotionally chromatic in substance, without 
formal thematic coherence. The choir has besides its instrumental 
use only two short passages in the Scholar Gypsy part of the text: 


in one it echoes the Speaker's description of e all the live murmur 
of a summer's day' and the other is an even briefer dilation on the 
'dreaming spires'. In the Thyrsis, which is the more elegiac part 
of the text, the choir has another evocative passage of place and 
time which sharpens the poignancy of Thyrsis' death Thyrsis 
was Arthur Hugh Clough, Arnold's Oxford friend. And then the 
final bid for resignation, courage, and even hope brings it its most 
substantial music. In this matter Vaughan Williams has reversed 
Brahms's procedure. In the Schicksalslied the text is without hope 
but Brahms rounds off his cantata with an orchestral posdude 
that virtually gives the lie to all that has gone before. An Oxford 
Elegy ends with the singing in firm harmony of the words 

Oar scholar travels yet the loved hill-side. 

Occasional Works 


IN his artistic credo of 1912 x Vaughan Williams wrote 'Have we 
not all about us forms of musical expression which we can take 
and purify and raise to the level of great art?' And he instances the 
music-hall, children in the street, the Salvation Army, community 
singing at football matches, and a high festival at St. Paul's 
Cathedral as sources of inspiration. In consonance with this faith 
he has always been willing to write occasional music. 

It is the way of occasional music often to outlive its occasion 
one might point to Bach's church cantatas as a conspicuous in 
stance. But whether it lives or dies after the day of its birth, 
occasional music has at any rate one paradoxical source of vitality 
it imposes limitations, limitations of resources, of subject, of 
form. The doctrine of limitations in aesthetics is paradoxical in the 
sense that fetters become the instrument of freedom. The classical 
example is the sonnet form: the poet is bound by his verse form 
and his rhyme scheme, and if he was not it would not be a sonnet 
that he was writing but something else, which would not have the 
characteristic beauty of a sonnet. There is in the creation of a work 
of art an element of struggle with, and conquest of, recalcitrant 
material, and if this struggle has not taken place the result is too 
facile to merit the high title of art. Brahms, confronted with the 
idea of transcribing for the piano Bach's Chaconne for violin solo, 
realized that to write out the harmonies for two hands was too 
easy, that part of the essence of the Chaconne was being too big 
for its medium, that to put what was bursting out of its envelope 
into the immensely larger vessel of a seven-octave pianoforte -was 
to let the essence evaporate. So he transcribed it for left hand 
alone so as to equalise by this handicapping the struggle of form 
and content, which is the vital artistic factor in Bach's original 
1 RcpubHshed in Hubert Foss's Ralph Vaughan Williams, Harrap, 1950. 


conception. The composer therefore who undertakes to write a 
choral suite for choirs of limited capacity, a concerto grosso for 
a string band containing many beginners, a cantata for chorus and 
orchestra designed for singers and players still at school, is by his 
handicap stimulating his imagination to the task of struggle with 
and conquest of material that is for once in a way recalcitrant not 
by its magnitude but by its very simplicity. 

Between 1949 and 1951 Vaughan Williams produced three such 
works for special festive occasions being observed by amateur 
musicians of severely limited technical powers Women's In 
stitutes Choirs, Rural Music Schools, and the Schools Music 
Association. All had their first performances in the Albert Hall 
under Sir Adrian Boult, who shares the composer's feeling of 
obligation to, and delight in, amateur music. They were Folk- 
Songs of the Four Seasons, first performed on 15 June 1950, 
Concerto Grosso for String Orchestra, first performed on 18 
November 1950, and The Sons of Light, first performed on 6 May 

There are however grand as well as humble occasions requiring 
music and for them too Vaughan Williams has composed special 
pieces. The most transitory of this group is the Flourish for a 
Coronation which was performed at a Philharmonic concert at 
Queen's Hall on i April 1937 in honour of the Coronation of King 
George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It is an affair of unisonal and 
imitational writing for a chorus with melismatic exuberances, of 
trumpet fanfares, of organ and tramping basses and even of loud 
shouts. The words come from the Bible (Kings i and Chronicles ii 
and Psalm cxxxvi), from Chaucer and from the Agincourt Song 
(v. 2). The passage of Chaucer beginning 

O Prince, desire to be honourable, 
Cherish thy folk and hate extortion. 

is set to a fine hymn-like tune and is sung first by tenors and basses 
in unison and then in four-part diatonic harmony. This is made of 
durable material but the rest of the short cantata is purely occa 
sional. It was not revived in 1953 for the Coronation of Queen 
Elizabeth n. 


The Serenade to Music was written for a specifically musical 
occasion Henry Wood's jubilee in 1938 and has found per 
manent usefulness. Thanksgiving for Victory was commissioned by 
the B.B.C. for broadcasting at the end of the war when the time 
came. It has been renamed A Song of Thanksgiving to fit it for more 
general use and it has been recorded. 

Serenade to Music 

The Serenade to Music has to be regarded as a choral work 
although it was specifically written for solo voices. Those voices, 
sixteen in number, are actually specified in the score composers 
have often written with particular performers in mind, but this 
instance must surely be unique, in which the thematic material 
seems to have been shaped to the timbre of an individual voice 
with as much or even more of 'registration* as is normally applied 
to the assignation of a tune to oboe, clarinet, or horn. But then, 
the occasion was unique the jubilee of Henry J. Wood, the con 
ductor, who was the chief single force in democratizing orchestral 
music in Britain. The Serenade was composed for and dedicated 
to him on the occasion of his jubilee, which was celebrated on 
5 October 193 8. Wood in his time accomplished a vast amount of 
work outside the Promenade Concerts on which his fame princip 
ally rests. He conducted festivals, both choral and orchestral, and 
was a 'guest artist', as the rather absurd phrase goes, on many 
occasions under the aegis of all the important musical organiza 
tions in the country at one time or another. On these occasions he 
was associated with all the principal British oratorio (and some 
opera) singers of the day, and they in their turn were pleased and 
honoured to be associated by Vaughan Williams in this remark 
able tribute from a composer to an executant. 

The singers at the jubilee concert at the Albert Hall on 5 October 
1938 were Isobel BaiHie, Stiles Allen, Elsie Suddaby, Eva Turner 
(sopranos), Margaret Balfour, Muriel Brunskill, Astra Desmond, 
Mary Jarred (contraltos), Parry Jones, Heddle Nash, Frank Titter- 
ton, Walter Widdop (tenors), Norman Allin, Robert Easton, 


Roy Henderson, and Harold Williams (basses). The composer 
adds this note to his score: 'For subsequent performances of this 
work, when the above singers (indicated by their initials in the 
score) are not available, other singers will have to take their places. 
Four soloists will be sufficient, or all the parts may be sung in 

The Serenade to Music, then, was very much an occasional 
piece, but its ravishing strains could not be discarded when the 
occasion was past, and so like many another occasional piece it 
has survived to an independent existence, and, more remarkably, 
to prove to be the right work for other occasions, most notably the 
revived festival of St. Cecilia. When music's own praise is being 
sung, the Serenade to Music takes its place alongside the St. Cecilia 
Odes of Purcell and Handel as the right music for those occasions. 

The words are taken from The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene i , 
beginning 'How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank' 
down, with some omissions, to 'Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with 
Endymion And would not be awak'd'. The principal omission is 
Lorenzo's description of the effect on a wild and wanton herd of 
colts hearing 4 a trumpet sound, or any air of music touch their 
ears'. When Shakespeare spoke of music in this passage he did 
what is virtually impossible he fixed in words all the heart- 
easing qualities of the most volatile of the arts. Vaughan Williams 
has made a further distillation and presents us with the essence of 
music in music. Its peculiar sweetness seems to find expression 
mainly by the harmonic use of soft discords it has even been 
likened to Delius. There is, as always, much triadic harmony, but 
the triads often have an added note, and passing notes in inner 
parts make glancing dissonances as they pass. The first two bars 
show the sort of thing: a tonic chord passes to a chord of the ninth 
on a sub-dominant, the dominant is consistently avoided, and 
thirds pile up: 

E*- 1 - A j 
fl X Ajmante 



The scoring here is for harp, strings and clarinet, and a violin 
solo. This nocturnal music recurs. There is a second idea an 
nounced during the course of the short orchestral prelude, an idea 
kter associated with the patines of bright gold rotating in angelic 

EX. 2. PQZQ CBliffULtQ 

f\ A 



These two ideas are repeated when the voices enter. The voices 
make their entry tutti but when Ex. 2 comes up for verbal 
elaboration the tenor singers carry on the melody till the words 
*such harmony is in immortal souls' demand full harmony in eight 
parts once more, a harmony in which G major and B flat major 
are juxtaposed. 

The third main idea is a fanfare, with the calls overlapping in 
Vaughan Williams's characteristic way. This is to wake Diana 
with a hymn, A plaintive section follows for solo voice to *I am 
never merry when I hear sweet music*, but the fanfares return 
when the music from Portia's house is heard. This is the D major 
music that grows out of Ex, i, and it is again followed by the 
triplet motion and the woodwind solos of Ex. 2, for once more 
the subject is the night, the moon's sleep this time rather than the 
starshine. The final section is the main music of Ex. I, which gives 
to the whole piece, cantata one must call it though it is like none 
other of the species, the form of a large and irregular rondo. It 
ends pianissimo with a bottom D for the lowest bass, after the 
soaring phrase, that came as cadence figure at the end of the 
exposition, the phrase ever to be associated with Isobel Baillie's 
voice by those who heard her; 



Of swe_ 



A Song of Thanksgiving 

A Song of Thanksgiving (originally entitled Thanksgiving for 
Victory) is the natural complement of Dona Nobis Pacem, which 
provides the context (see p. 165) for some discussion of the 
aesthetics of this matter. It also forms a link in the historical chain 
of commentary on public affairs that begins in the Fourth or 
'Fascist* Symphony, in which the nakedness of force in world 
politics is shown for what it is, that continues in Dona Nobis Pacem, 
the tract for those times of mounting tension, and finishes in the 
Sixth Symphony, a description and prophecy of war. 

A Song of Thanksgiving was commissioned for broadcasting on 
the day of Germany's surrender in 1945. It had a concert perform 
ance on the last night of the Proms (September 15) that season and 
was subsequently heard in Norwich Cathedral on a royal occasion 
(17 January 1946), where its fittingness to complement Elgar's For 
the Fallen in future Armistice celebrations was established. The 
vocal score contains some instructions about the way its unusual 
disposal offerees is to be regulated. There is a part for a Speaker, 
who has a passage of Shakespeare and several excerpts from the 
Book of Isaiah to declaim not only against an instrumental but also 
against a choral background. This is a microphone technique and 
requires careful adjustment in concert performance to ensure the 
predominance of the Speaker's words. On the other soloist's part 
the composer prescribes that 'the soprano part should be sung by 
a powerful dramatic voice, but there must be no vibrato 9 . (Is such 
a combination of opposite requirements really possible?) 'On no 
account should the part be sung by a single boy's voice, though in 
the case of necessity it may be sung by several boys' voices in 
unison/ In other words it is a clarion call with words. Another 
note demands the raw tone of childish piping in the children's 
semi-chorus and not the sophisticated fluting of choir boys. The 
work is scored for large orchestra with six trumpets and six 
clarinets but there is extensive cueing in to enable it to be per 
formed in all sorts and conditions of place and circumstance. For 



the substance of the music is sufficiently simple to allow choirs of 
modest attainments to undertake it. 

The text is taken from The Song of the Three Holy Children in 
the Apocrypha the words of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego 
in King Nebuchadnezzar's oven from Shakespeare (Henry V, 
Act IV, Scene 8), from the Books of Chronicles and Isaiah, and 
from Kipling's Puck ofPook's Hill The cantata falls into three parts 
marked by the main ideas contained in the grouped texts. The first, 
which opens with a fanfare and its adaptation to the solo voice, is 
a thanksgiving founded on the idea Non nobis Domine. The middle 
section which makes some use of minor keys is confined to the 
words of Isaiah. The third part, opening with a broad, diatonic, 
hymn-like tune first sung by the children's semi-chorus, is a setting 
of Kipling's 'Land of our birth we pledge to thee, Our love and 
toil in the years to be': 



J~? 1 

1 J . 4 

PL&nd of our birth we pledge lo 

thee Our love and 



toil in the years to 

be; When we are 

grown and take csar 

place As men and 

J > 


wo - men with COT race 

This tune begins in the vein of e O we can wait no longer' in 
the Sea Symphony the idealistic urge is the common factor. 
It modulates to the dominant like a conventional hymn-tune and 
unlike a typical folk-song. It is taken up by the chorus with 
points of imitation and quaver motion to give it greater impetus 
and thence to a great unison of all available voices against the 
harmony of the orchestra. But even that dies away and the 
final benediction is sung by the soprano solo (with a softly 
echoing trumpet) at the end wholly unaccompanied. So hard does 
Vaughan Williams find it to write any but a fading end to a com 
position, even if it be a thanksgiving for victory. 


The use of the spoken voice with musical tone is always doubt 
ful in effect because it puts the utterance on two planes. Melodrama 
as in Fidelio can by the very shock of the intrusion of speech upon 
a musical texture be dramatically effective. Elgar's Carillon in the 
same way stirred the heart with its original words. Honegger's 
King David is an experiment on a larger scale, as also is Bliss's 
Morning Heroes. What Vaughan Williams has done in A Song of 
Thanksgiving is to go a step further and put the speaking voice not 
only against an orchestral accompaniment but against a choral 
chant (cf. An Oxford Elegy, p. 185), which in the middle section 
actually echoes the speaker's words. The aesthetic purpose is less 
to seek an extension of musical resources than to emphasize the 
ceremonial character of the cantata. It is not a concert work but a 
public celebration. It is music engaged in a social service. The 
broad diatonic character of the tunes, though not for congrega 
tional use, is witness to the social impulse behind its composition. 

Folk-Songs of the Four Seasons 

Besides the paradox of the difficulty of being simple there is 
another paradox to be faced in the first of these occasional works 
of the Festival of Britain period: it is the ethics and aesthetics of 
arrangement. No one has ever been able to work out high general 
principles of artistic morality on which transcriptions and arrange 
ments can be justified or condemned. The reduction of the 
orchestral part for piano in a vocal score has the justification of 
utility and is not criticized artistically, but if the utility argument 
is excluded, such as applies also to piano duet arrangements of 
symphonies or of Bach's organ chorale preludes, it is extremely 
difficult to reach any valid general principle beyond the unhelpful 
statement that each case must be judged on its merits. In the case of 
folk-song there is an initial objection that any sort of accompani 
ment or polyphonic treatment is out of place, since the main 
feature of folk-song is its monody, its absence of harmonic 
implication, its unidimensional line. Plainsong gave way to the 


polyphony that evolved out of it, but folk-song remains, in Ernest 
Walker's searching phrase, 'the sole artistic protest against artistic 
culture that history knows'. Yet everybody who has ever had any 
intimate contact with folk-song, the early collectors, the later 
scholars, the American specialists (who resist the piano but adopt 
the guitar), Chappell, Lucy Broadwood, Cecil Sharp, Vaughan 
Williams, E, J, Moeran, while conforming to the pure doctrine of 
folk-song's self-sufficiency, yet make their own accompaniments 
and arrangements. 

But not all arrangements are equally good, and people are not 
always agreed as to which arrangements are good or bad, and still 
less on what principle that good or bad can be decided. Thus we 
are back at the general difficulty of all transcription. But we can 
take note of one historical fact and of one proposed formula. 
Every generation, it seems, makes its own settings to accord with 
its taste. Chappell brought in MacFarren to harmonize in simplest 
text-book style the tunes in Popular Music of the Olden Time. Lucy 
Broadwood had a refined taste that improved on MacParren but 
did not go much further than simple setting. Sharp was bolder and 
wrote real accompaniments. Vaughan Williams fertilized his own 
musical style by folk-song and repaid the debt with an inex 
haustible resource in finding the right treatment for the hundreds 
of folk-songs he has set in one form or another at one time or 
another. Moeran set them like Delius. Britten has now applied his 
ingenious mind to the coining of new figural accompaniments to 
old songs. 

Vaughan Williams's own formula for the way to set a folk-song 
is that it must be 'done with love'. This does not go much beyond 
the phrase 'each on its merits', for you can only recognize love by 
the same intuitive judgement as that by which you judge merits. 
However love', unless it be love at first sight, does imply long 
acquaintance, and if you live with folk-song long enough you 
learn to know it in its inmost nature and are so less likely to com 
mit outrages on it. Love at first sight however is not a complete 
safeguard against unfeeling settings: many people find Britten's 
settings only half happy. His mind has been too quick, and his taste 
in this matter therefore is that of tbe impetuous lover whose fancy 


has been, caught. Worst of all are those casual flirts who pick up 
a folk-song and hope to 'make something of it'. 

Vaughan Williams's settings are all made with love, with the 
paradoxical result that the more personal his settings the more 
they enhance the native quality of the tune, There is, it seems, no 
need to be colourless or self-effacing in setting a folk-tune; if love 
and respect are in it there need be no limit to the amount of 
individuality that may be brought to the partnership of personal 
and communal creation. By a happy paradox each enhances the 
other and neither loses its independence. 

In Folk-Songs of the Four Seasons Vaughan Williams once more 
demonstrates what love can do and how the limitation to female 
voices can be turned to new and positive account. He uses unison, 
two-part and three-part harmony with and without accompani 
ment, unison with descant, and unison with two-part semi- 
chorus. He envisaged a large choir, of which the majority were 
singers who could only be relied on for a good unison weight of 
tone, a semi-chorus capable of part-singing, and a small number 
only who could manage an unaccompanied trio. Many of the 
choirs found even the modest demands made of them in the 
matter of part-singing difficult enough to manage in a winter's 
work and there were eliminating contests in every district to 
decide what choirs should go to the concert at the Albert Hall and 
make up the chorus of more than 3,000 voices. The effect of so 
many voices singing with simple sincerity melody that was bone 
of their bone, composed into a cantata specially for Englishwomen 
dwelling in the English countryside, by a composer who more 
than any other has steeped himself in our native traditions, was 
extraordinarily moving. 

In a note to the programme on the occasion of this 'National 
Singing Festival* Vaughan Williams wrote: 

When I undertook to write a Folk Song Cantata for the Women's 
Institutes I set my mind to work to find some unifying idea which 
would bind the whole together. It was not long before I discovered the 
necessary link the calendar. The subjects of our folk-songs, whether 
they deal with romance, tragedy, conviviality or legend, have a back 
ground of nature and its seasons. 


The resulting cantata can in fact be used whole at any time, 
seasonally in quarters, or separately song by song according to the 
resources available anywhere at any time. 

There is a prologue consisting of the folk-song 'To the Plough- 
boy' sung by all voices with a descant for semi-chorus over a 
vigorous orchestral (or piano) accompaniment. The song is one of 
Dr. Vaughan Williams's own collection and was taken down in 
Sussex in 1904. The special point of putting the song here at the 
beginning is that in it the ploughboy is invited not merely to sur 
vey the operations of agriculture but to 'help me to sing'. 'Let's 
sing, sing, sing and be merry withal/ 


The first of the constituent cantatas contains three songs of 
spring. The first is a love song, 'Early in the spring', set for three 
voices unaccompanied. Few harmonic progressions are involved 
and they go round and round until they blossom into a melismatic 
cadence at the end of the simple story. Here is the romance against 
the background of the calendar of which the composer wrote in 
his note. 

The second of the spring songs is 'The Lark in the Morn' from 
the composer's own East Anglian collection but differently har 
monized in 1950 from 1905, with a figuration that gives a gentle 
waltz lilt to the song. The tune is not the same as the one collected 
by Cecil Sharp to the same words, which are incidentally only 
fragmentary as they stand but exist in a fuller form on broadsides, 
which means that the song had a town as well as a country circtda- 
tion in the eighteenth century. The setting is for two voices with 
a rather ingenious accompaniment in which two different figures 
are combined. 

'May Song', for full chorus (unison) and semi-chorus descant 
accompanied, turns to something robust after the lyrical delicacy 
of the first two songs of spring. It makes use of two tunes used in 
alternation and in what can only be called telescopation. The first 
is the traditional may-song, which Vaughan Williams had already 
used in Hugh the Drover. 


J J 

J J J 

O we've been ram - bling all the night, And some part 

of this day,- 

d now we have re - turned a - 

-gain, And have brought you a branch of may.- 

The second, which occupies the middle section and turns from E 
minor to E major, is taken from English County Songs, where it 
appears under Lucy Broadwood's initials as a tune from Hertford 


Fall Chorus cmly 

wake, a - wake, you pret - ty, pret - ty maid, Out 

And step in - to your 

dai - ry be - low, And fetch us a bowl of cream. 

The words of this seasonal may-song show, like those of the 
Christmas carol 'The Holly and the Ivy*, traces of several trains of 
thought. The song is essentially religious, but of pagan derivation. 
The may, like the holly, is a manifestation of the vegetation spirit, 
but Christian theology has been attached to it with the puritan 
memento mori that affected carols in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries. It is also a qiiete song if the bowl of cream is not forth 
coming then a mug of beer is called for. It is also a ritual song of 

A branch of may have I brought you 

And at your door it stands, 

It is but a sprout but well budded out 

By the work of our Lord's hand. 

No wonder with ah 1 this accumulated lore of the centuries the 
tune in which it is concentrated stirs us to our depths, 



The section devoted to Summer begins by the necessity of the 
obvious and the appropriate with 'Sumer is icumen in*. The com 
poser makes no bones about including it as a folk-song in a folk 
song suite, claiming that because 'it has long been a puzzle how 
this beautiful melody made its appearance among its contem 
porary monkish companions' it can reasonably be deduced that it 
'owes its freedom and grace to the feet that it is a folk-tune not 
bound by theoretical restrictions'. Theoretical restrictions how 
ever have a way of conferring freedom, as we have already had 
occasion to observe, and 'Sumer is icumen in' of the thirteenth 
century lends itself to canonic treatment in four parts with a 
ground bass in two parts underneath. Chappell agrees with 
Vaughan Williams that it is not a monkish composition of John 
of Fornsete of Reading. He believes 'its superiority to be owing to 
its having been a national song or tune, selected, according to the 
custom of the time, as a basis for harmony and that it is not entirely 
a scholastic composition*. 

Vaughan Williams's treatment begins with an orchestral state 
ment of the *pes' or two-part ostinato, immediately followed by 
a statement of the tune in the bass with the ostinato translated to 
the tenor, which proves the invertibility of these two component 
elements of the *rota*. In due course the voices eaiter while the 
orchestra plays the *pes*, the order of entry being full unison chorus 
with the tune, semi-chorus in four parts embarking on the round, 
and the full chorus reinforcing the fourth entry. 

The cuckoo that has been so assertive in the canon now has a 
song to herself. This is the familiar song beginning 


a pret - ly bird, She sing - eth as sbc fiies 

O the cue - koo 

from Cecil Sharp's Somerset collection. It is to be sung by a solo 
in the first verse, by all voices in the second, to which a kind of 
descant is added in two parts. This descant is itself a kind of precis 
of the tune variants do in fact exist with the smoother contour 


of this counterpoint. The underpart is in thirds and sixths, which 
offsets the instrumental accompaniment to the first verse which 
was with similar consistency in consecutive fourths and fifths. 

The second song for the two parts of 'The Cuckoo' are treated 
as one song is the even more widespread *The Sprig of Thyme', 
whose words, together with those of the parallel song, 'The Seeds 
of Love' (which has however a different tune), are full of flower 
symbolism: thyme is virginity; the primrose early, too early, love; 
the red rose of June love fulfilled and happy; the willow the 
broken love of desertion. The particular variant of the tune used 
by Vaughan Williams is unidentifiable and it may be suspected 
that, as in the similar case of 'Dives and Lazarus', Vaughan 
Williams has himself behaved like the traditional singer, trans 
forming the tune slightly in transmitting it. He has composed 
different descants for its several verses. 

High summer is described with dubious agricultural and 
botanical accuracy in 'The Sheep Shearing', another of Sharp's 

It's a rosebud in June and violets in full bloom 

And the small birds singing love-songs on each spray, 

We'll pipe and we'll sing, love, we'll dance in a ring, love, 

When each lad takes his lass. 

All on the green grass, 

And it's all to plough 

Where the fat oxen graze low 

And the lads and lasses to sheep-shearing go. 

The tune is in the Dorian mode and the arrangement is set for 
two voices unaccompanied. 

The last song of Summer is a romance of the country girl 
resisting the blandishments of the smart gentleman from town. 
The song here bears the tide of 'The Green Meadow* but equally 
it is called 'The Lawyer'. It comes from the collection made by 
George Butterworth in Sussex. It is to be sung in unison by all 
voices and the accompaniment is of the simplest. The only com 
plication is in the writing out of the tune which interpolates two 
bars of 9/8 time in a 6/8 time. 



Autumn contains three songs, 'John Barleycorn*, 'The Unquiet 
Grave', and 'An Acre of Land'. 

'John Barleycorn' is a symbolical ballad of the corn-spirit. In it 
under the personification of an English knight he appears in 
many versions as Sir John Barleycorn the whole agricultural 
process, which in itself is used as a symbol of death and resurrec 
tion, the victory of life over death, of seeming to die in order to 
live again, as in the legend of Persephone and Pluto, is rehearsed: 
John Barleycorn dies, he is ploughed into the earth, he remains 
inert in the ground, he appears again pale and wan but bearded, he 
is chopped down and bound up and finally poured out as a strong 
spirit in a glass. 1 

The ballad has many tunes, most with a family resemblance to 
each other. The one used by Vaughan Williams has a nonsense 
refrain, which apart from its rhythmic punch, accords with the 
idea of magical incantation. Its appropriateness to the autumn 
season is that the crux of the ballad is the cutting down of the 
barley in its prime, the harvest. The setting is for two-part semi- 
chorus with full chorus weighing in with the refrain, the orchestra 
having three different settings of increasingly florid figuration, 
though nothing very fanciful is allowed to contradict the forth 
right march of the tune. 

Of 'The Unquiet Grave' and its place in the scheme the com 
poser says: 'The young maiden meets her dead lover among the 
storms and cold winds of autumn.' The ballad, though very widely 
spread and occurring in many versions, is one of the few on a 
supernatural theme to be found in English folk-song. The tune is 
one of Sharp's original Somerset collection and the setting for 
three voices unaccompanied is the least simple of all in the cantata. 
To offset its eerie and moving character, as well as the comparative 
elaboration of its setting, it is followed by the sociable unison of 
'An Acre of Land' in which the agricultural processes of 'John 
Barleycorn' turn up again but with their symbolical significance 

1 For a fuller elucidation of this remarkable song see my Mm, Mind and Music, 
pp. 44-48. 


more deeply buried. It belongs to the class of riddle songs, first 
cousin to nursery rhymes, relics of ancient lore lost in children's 
nonsense. Harrowing, reaping, threshing, winnowing, and milling 
the grain are all here but all carried out with incongruous imple 
ments. If cast in riddle form the questions would have an answer. 
Thus in the version known as 'Scarborough Fair* the singer sings 
'And now I have answered your questions three I hope you'll 
answer as many for me', though in point of fact the song is not 
cast in dialogue form. 

The tune is of Dr. Vaughan Williams's own from a collection 
he made in Wiltshire in 1904. It is a sociable song with a short 
refrain between the alternate lines: 

Ivy sing ivery, 

And a branch of green holly and ivery. 


The inexhaustible wealth of Christmas music provides the com 
poser with ample choice of material for celebrating the season of 
winter, even if he confines himself to strict folk-song and ignores 
those carols in which there is a discernible element of clerical or 
individual authorship among the factors which make us classify a 
song with that conveniently loose word 'traditional*. Vaughan 
Williams has taken a children's quete song from Yorkshire, a 
Wassail song from Gloucestershire, a true carol of the Nativity 
from Northamptonshire, and part of the Sussex Mummers' Carol 
It may be well to observe in parenthesis that the local provenance 
of folk-songs has no real scientific value, but an editorial principle 
rightly established in the early days of folk-song collection, which 
demanded the place, date, and person to mark the source of each 
version of a song put into print, has left behind it the habit of 
ascribing songs to the counties where they were first found, a habit 
which is not without convenience for distinguishing variants and 
versions the Wassail songs, for instance, can be usefully labelled 
by counties. English folk-songs are pretty widely distributed over 
the whole country, though some regions, notably Northumbria, 
preserve folk-songs not found elsewhere. Nevertheless students of 


folk-song who know the insignificance of what they are doing 
still continue to attach the names of the county to folk-songs which 
happen to have been found in it. 

Part IV begins with an orchestral prelude based on the two 
phrases a and c of the first tune. This is a Yorkshire Wassail song 
from Hooton Roberts near Sheffield and quite different from the 
song to similar words in English County Songs , which is also from 
South Yorkshire our geographical distinctions fail us here. 



We've been a - while a - wan - der - ing, A - mong the leaves so 

Ij *^?' I S J ^4f 

green 3 But BOW we crane a. was - sail -ing, So plain - ly to be 

seen, For it's Christ -mas time, when we trav-el far 

Q . ;. < , P=? , ^ 

near; May God bless you and send you a hap-py New Year 

This is harmonized in two parts with an accompaniment based 
on and expanded from phrase c. The final tierce de Picardie gives a 
wonderful reinforcement to the happy of the New Year wish. 

The Gloucestershire Wassail song which follows is more truly 
a Wassail song in that it is a drinking song. Wassailing is essentially 
drinking in the dark days of winter at the turn of the year to the 
health of next summer's crops. In cider-making districts relics of 
sympathetic magic remain in the practice of wassailing in that the 
trees are toasted and sprinkled with the potion (of which the boas 
is cider). In this song all the inhabitants of the farm are toasted by 
the itinerant wassailers, the horse, the ox, the cow, and the fanner 
himself and the 'maid in lily-white frock*. Vaughan Williams had 
previously set this song in four parts, a version which became 
widely known through the English Singers and other subsequent 
madrigal parties. Here he sets it for massive unison with a descant. 

'In Bethlehem City' belongs to the large family of carols known 
by the name of *A Virgin unspotted*. It is a true carol in that it 


retains the refrain which is a relic of the dance the carol is 
ultimately a dance-song. 

Then let us be merry, cast sorrow away, 

Our Saviour Christ Jesus was born on this day. 

This is sung at the end of every verse of what is in fact a ballad 
version of the Nativity story the ballad by derivation is also a 
dance-song, though both carol and ballad had shed their dance by 
the time of the great age of carols and ballads, the fifteenth century. 
It is here set for three voices unaccompanied for the original 
purposes of the Women's Institutes therefore it constituted one of 
the harder songs and was reserved for the more skilful choirs. 

The Sussex Mummers* Carol with which the cantata ends strikes 
a more solemn note, which is indeed a benediction. Lucy Broad- 
wood, who noted it in 1 88 1 in the Horsham district, comments on 
the contrast between its solemnity for it is a Crucifixion carol as 
to half its extant verses and the appearance of the Mummers who 
sang it at the close of their folk-play 'St. George and the Turk 5 . 
Mummers and Wassailers always conclude their performances 
with 'God bless the master of this house', an admirable but not 
wholly disinterested sentiment. It is the last three verses in which 
this secular benediction is elaborated that Vaughan Williams has 
taken for his epilogue. He writes a prelude to it in counterpoint, 
in which the organ joins, and then brings in all voices in unison 
in the second of the three verses, the mistress's verse, he doubles the 
tune in the deep bass and writes a descant above it of chords of the 
sixth brightened with bells. For the last verse, the children's verse, 
he harmonizes the tune with great solidity but with some un- 
ecclesiastical progressions, and in the last two lines adds a descant. 

Concerto Grosso for String Orchestra 

The limitations placed by the varying capacities of the players 
who were to perform the Concerto Grosso en masse in the Albert 
Hall were if anything more stringent than in the case of the 
Women's Institute singers. The Rural Music School teaches the 
violin in classes and many of its students would not have much 


suppleness of finger to bring to their adult study of stringed 
instruments. Nevertheless some extraordinary results have been 
produced by such apparently unpromising methods. 

The Concerto Grosso contemplates three grades of performer: 
there must be a Concertino of skilled players, just as there was in 
the days of Bach and Handel, when petty dukes and great families 
made their domestic music on the basis of just such a distinction 
between the more and the less skilled. The Tutti (or Ripieno, as 
the eighteenth century called it) is designed as the main accom 
paniment, which could be undertaken by players capable of the 
third position or simple double stops. There is a third considerably 
subdivided section for beginners. In it there are two parts for 
violins and one each for viola and cello, and in addition a part each 
for violin, viola, cello, and bass, Tor those players who prefer to 
use only open strings'. Could tact be more delicate? The full score 
therefore presents on its first page eighteen staves, which on its 
first performance were divided between 400 players, the majority 
of whom were fi Ad libs'. It has been well called a concerto for all 

There are five movements to what is really as much a suite as 
a concerto. It begins and ends with a ceremonious movement, 
'Intrada', which would be like the Handelian version of a French 
Ouverture if it were not even more like Vaughan Williams setting 
the bells of heaven and earth ringing with simple progressions. 
The open-string pkyers play their simple part from the very first 
notes, and the Tutri very largely duplicates the Concertino, since 
the music is very broad and not very difficult and does not here 
exploit the differences in weight of tone available from the dis 
position into three unequal forces. 

'Burlesca Ostinata' changes from D major of the opening to D 
minor. D is a good key for open strings but the suite does not 
monotonously adhere to it as its eighteenthr-century forerunner 
did. The ostinato on which the movement is constructed is an 
ingenious construction from the open notes of string instruments. 

E*- 1 ' Allegro moderate 

1 j i' ij 'JjiJ J ILLL;IJ J JJ 


There are five variations on this canto fermo before a middle 
section, at which there is a change to triple time and the major 
mode with a tune over it. The ostinato returns for two more 
variations but is not strictly pursued any further in case the patient 
Ad Libs get bored with it. In its pkce ideas from both sections are 
tossed about in rough alternation so as to make a more exciting, 
though ultimately tranquil, conclusion. 

The Sarabande is in simple binary form, though the second half 
is not marked to be repeated, based on a tune in G minor with 
its seventh inflected now flat now sharp, an ambiguity that 
paradoxically lends it a distinct quality. 

The Scherzo is true to its name in making jokes which even a 
beginner can appreciate. Thus after a tremendous G on the open 
string a tune like one of Beethoven's in level crotchets starts up. 
But though it is in C minor it avoids the A flat and it is not the 
main tune, for after a chromatic slither a tune in short two-bar 
phrases in C major asserts itself. After the double bar it goes 
on again but is broken up by some staccato passages. The trio 
goes from triple into duple time and back into C minor. There 
is no repetition of the Scherzo but a twelve-bar coda marked 

The fifth movement, March and Reprise, makes more of the 
contrast between the different masses of tone. The main tune 


Alia, marcia 


mfleggiero N * '" ^-* 

is first played by the Concertino then taken up by the rest. Its 
balancing phrase contains syncopations which again are played 
first by the Concertino then by the Tutti but not by the Ad libs, 
who are only given a few skeleton accompaniments to perform. 
The second section goes to A minor, and again the Concertino has 
the first say. At a change to triple time two new features are intro 
duced one is a tune containing a dotted-note figure, which 
alternates with Ex. 2, but becomes more and more dotted so as to 
work up for a repetition of the Intrada. The other is that even the 
Ad libs are allowed among all this strongly marked rhythm some 


simple off-beat notes. The Intrada then rounds off the work which 
it so ceremoniously began. 

Thus in spite of the stringency of the limitations there is enough 
to keep each section of the orchestra occupied and interested and 
the result is real music that is never banal or condescending. 

The Sons of Light 

The problem of part-singing in schools can never be solved 
because Nature ordains that boys' voices break at puberty and so 
puts altos out of action and brings into being some erratic basses. 
As for tenors they are the freaks of pure chance and may not 
happen at all. In girls' schools the critical period is less devastating 
to the school choir, but sopranos outnumber mezzos and real 
contraltos are almost as rare as tenors. The insoluble problem is 
evaded in various ways: girls can be made to sing in three spurious 
parts; songs can be arranged in three parts only for sopranos, altos, 
and basses; some boys' voices can be nursed through a progressive 
descent from treble to bass, filling in the alto and tenor for brief 
periods on the way. Or it can be tackled heroically by simply 
setting whatever choir is available to sing in the standard four 
parts, S.A.T.B., and by a galvanic eye in the conductor and reck 
less disregard for the singing teachers' canons of voice production 
charge through to a cheerful if raucous triumph by sheer weight 
of numbers. 

The Sons of Light was written to enable a large number of school 
children in their teens to have the benefit of true four-part 
choral singing. The vocal writing goes neither too high nor too 
low for comfort or effectiveness, and antiphony is preferred to 

It was written for the Schools Music Association, a body that 
has specialized in non-competitive festivals of associated choirs, 
and it was dedicated to Mr. Bernard Shore, former viola player 
but at the time one of His Majesty's Inspectors of Schools. It was 
first sung by 1,150 boys and girls during the Festival of Britain, 


The poem by Ursula Wood (Mrs. Vaughan Williams) provides 
three movements. Its theme is the creation of the world no less 
but conceived in terms of myth rather than theology or geology. 
Out of chaos came Light and Dark, c to go their separate ways of 
day and night'. The Sun drives his chariot across the sky; the moon 
presides over the stillness of the night, where the stars shine in their 
constellations. The stars also give the twelve signs of the Zodiac 
and thek names and influences provide the text for a middle 
movement. In the last movement the theme is less astral, more 
human. Just as in Jacquetta Hawkes's book, A Land, man appears 
as the final product of geological change, so in 'Messengers of 
Speech' Ursula Wood comes from heaven to earth: Time has 
begun and man has names by which to speak of the elements 
for, as she says in a prefatory 'argument', nothing can exist until 
it has a name which is good philosophy. 

The first movement 'Darkness and Light' begins 'allegro 
maestoso' with a fanfare for trumpet: 

Ex. 1. Alkgro maestoso 


which provides both the components of its own chordal accom 
paniment and the outlines of the melody on which the voices 
launch the first verse of the poem. Each of the five verses which 
follow receives different rhythmic treatment to symbolize the 
different motions of sun, moon, and stars. The Stars indeed have 
their verse in a different verbal metre, which is put by the com 
poser into a flowing 6/8 ballad metre. Their frosty glint is trans 
mitted into sound in the chordal progression 


The intervening verses show many of Vaughan Williams's char 
acteristic idioms the striding bass, the break from duplets into 
triplets, the gapped melodies, the sharp juxtaposition of unrelated 


tonalities. The verse about the moon provides a page or two of 
contrapuntal writing which is as imitative as a fugal exposition. 
The movement ends, or would end if it was not marked 'segue', 
upon the unresolved first chord of Ex. 2, sustained by the voices 
declaiming with measured emphasis 'till Time is done'. 

The second movement is 'The Song of the Zodiac'. 'Every 
month of the year there shines one of the Zodiac's twelve signs', 
it begins, with this as its musical motto: 

BBS- Tuba & C'bxst co! gvi 
Ex. 3. Allegro pesante 


whichlends itself to inversions and diminutions as the Ram and the 
Bull stream across the sky. Gemini are distinguished by a dotted 
note figure; the Crab's motion is represented by oscillations of 
parallel fourths, not by any cancrizans device. Leo in C major 
stalks through the night in a Valkyrie rhythm, but Virgo is no 
Brynhilde she swims in the sky as the swallows: 


Libra, the Scales, bring autumn gales, which sweep in contrary 
motion and conflicting two-against-three rhythms up and down 
the gamut. Scorpio returns to the low pitch and deliberate rhythm 
of Ex. i for its 'deadly sting'. Sagittarius the Archer rides and 
Capricorn the goat dances to variations of dotted 6/8 rhythm, 
marked out for the goat by the xylophone. For Aquarius the 
graver triplets dissolve into semiquaver sextuplets in the accom 
paniment and for Pisces into septuplets, with the voices murmur 
ing a gentle up-and-down melody like a weed swaying in the eddy 
of a stream. Ex. 3 in the most formal of recapitulations 'ends the 
tale that the Ram begins'. 

The short finale, 'The Messengers of Speech', is introduced, like 
the first movement, with a fanfare figure which generates the 


thick chords in the verses that answer it, and the vocal melody 
which follows it. But it is terser than Ex. I and given to the horns. 


Ex. i itself is heard evoking man's dominion and majesty as the 
climax of creation. Still another version of the same basic idea 
accompanies the last words of all, in which the ideas of light and 
of names as emblems of man's power are combined to produce the 
exultation of joy: 


ft ; 



So this music for youth goes direct by means of clarion calls and 
a triumphant stride, uncomplicated part-writing but modern 
harmony, to those fundamental ideas, fittingly expressed in mono 
syllables, light and life. At seventy-eight Vaughan Williams knew 
in his heart what the young feel only in their bones. In this cantata 
he makes it explicit to their understanding. 

Chamber Music 


FOR a composer with so large an output the amount of Vaughan 
Williams's chamber music is small. Though he was brought up, 
as he has told us, more to the violin than to the keyboard, he has 
only written two string quartets and one quintet. The absence of 
duet sonatas may be accounted for by his lack of sympathy with 
the piano. The piano is used with string quartet only in the 
song-cycle On Wenlock Edge. An early piano quintet in C minor 
(c. 1908) was scrapped; as also was a horn quintet of the same 

The only other instance of the piano being concerted with 
strings is in 'Six Studies in English Folksong' for cello and piano, 
which was written for May Mukle in 1927, though of course The 
Lark Ascending and the Suite for Viola have piano accompaniments 
as alternative to small orchestra. 

The Household Music, which consists of movements founded 
on three Welsh hymn-tunes, was designed primarily for string 
quartet, but may be played by 'almost any combination of instru 
ments which may be gathered together at one time in a house 
hold*. The Suite for Pipes is written for a quartet of recorders. 

String Quartet No. i in G minor 

The first string quartet in G minor dates from 1909 and though 
it was revised in 1921 it bears many of the marks of Vaughan 
Williams's early manner alike in melodic quality and regularity 
of form. Equally it bears upon it the marks of some of his idio 
syncrasies -the use of the tide Romance for the slow movement 
and the deliberate exploitation of consecutive fifths in the Finale, 
though in the melody, not in the bass as in his later mannerism. 
It has one peculiarity of part-writing: the word 'solo* appears 
from time to time against the various parts to indicate melodic 


prominence, from which that voice is released by the occurrence 
of the sign <j> to indicate that 'the instrument concerned resumes 
its normal place in the ensemble'. The composer's life-long par 
tiality for the viola is thus early apparent, for to it is assigned the 
opening statement of the first subject: 

Allegro moderate 


1 1 I ) 

p cantabite 

This is repeated in various forms, as it might be by Haydn or 
Beethoven, and the only irregularity is one of rhythm where the 
bar length is extended (and thereby quickened) by a beat to form 
the bridge passage to the second subject, which appears in E major 
(of a sort): 


Here a triplet rhythm is introduced into the accompanying parts. 

In the development section Ex. 2 is used in augmentation, with 
the same device, for securing greater animation by putting four 
beats into the bar instead of three, adopted as in the bridge 
passage of the exposition, and the melody, now in C, retains the 
feature of the flattened sixth and seventh. The recapitulation 
follows classical precedent in recalling all the main material and 
incidental features. 

The second movement is a Minuet and Trio. The Minuet, like 
the second subject of the first movement, is in E major with a 
flattened seventh. It is marked with normal repeats. Its Trio is in 
C major with another tune containing a flat sixth and seventh. 

The slow movement Romance has its first subject in 5/4 time 
and a time in the Dorian mode, significant features of the emerg 
ing personal style of the composer: 

*** 3. Andante stxtenato 


pccmidbile e legato 


There is a middle section in which the quintuple time is abandoned 
for triple and the tonality shifts to the flats. The first idea is 
repeated to complete a simple ternary form. 

The Finale is described as a rondo capriccioso which returns 
to G minor, the theme of which is 

I * Allegro molto 

P scherzando 

String effects are employed *sur k touche', 'on the heel', c sul 
ponticello', alternations of pizzicato and arco. The episodes in 
clude a fugato; the coda goes presto and finishes with great chords 
and a cadenza which runs down through all the parts. 

The violin was Vaughan Williams's instrument. This string 
quartet shows him willing to use its hallowed medium for some 
thing less weighty than the German masters usually preferred for it. 

On Wenlock Edge 

The song-cycle On Wenlock Edge has some claim to be included 
in the chapter on chamber music, since the accompaniment is for 
piano and string quartet though it is possible to dispense with 
the quartet and provision is made in the score for that contingency. 
It is an early work (1909), which came just after Vaughan 
Williams's period of work with Ravel and so prompted the too 
percipient comment that it showed French influence. It is in fact 
basic Vaughan Williams, and the idioms of his maturity, the con 
secutive triads in juxtaposition, the use of swaying consecutive 
fourths instead of sixths and the little melismata of four or six 
notes up and down, begin to appear in it. But romantic idioms 
from his first period also persist repeated triplets to convey 
agitation and a certain amount of chromaticism. 

Grant Richards the publisher rektes how A. E. Housman was 
not musical and did not like giving permission for the setting of 
his poems. To Vaughan Williams, who pressed him, he retorted, 
'Very well, I give you permission but I do it with a very bad 


grace/ And he was not pleased when he found that the composer 
had excised a verse from Is my team ploughing?' the verse 
about the goal-keeper standing up to keep the goal is not, accord 
ing to Vaughan Williams, tolerable poetry. But there was some 
thing pleasantly astringent in Housman's pessimism in the days 
before two wars had robbed mankind of its faith in itself as well 
as in God, and many composers were drawn to Housman, especi 
ally to A Shropshire Lad. 

The cycle On Wenlock Edge takes six of the poems, all songs of 
mortal extinction, and sets them for tenor voice and elaborate 
accompaniment of strings and piano. In the first, which gives its 
ride to the whole, the song is musically a picture of the gale: the 
strings play tremolando and the piano keeps up the agitation, 
while underneath a bass stalks up and down repeating the first 
phrase of the vocal melody. In No. 2, 'From far, from eve and 
morning', the piano has wide-spread consecutive common chords 
that recall the setting of the 'Infinite Shining Heavens' in Songs of 
Travel. The strings do not play with the piano but take over from 
it the accompaniment to the middle section. In the third song 'Is 
my team ploughing?' the question is asked in quasi-recitative over 
a held tonic chord on the strings, the answer is accompanied by 
agitated triplets from the piano with the cello threading a chro 
matic path downhill. In the third (and last) verse the strings have 
a fuller accompaniment which increases the tension up to the 
melodramatic climax 'Never ask me whose', which is unaccom 
panied. 'Oh when I was in love with you' is light, if cynical, and 
is accompanied mostly pizzicato. In 'Bredon Hill* the accompani 
ment is of the greatest elaboration in the whole cycle its purpose 
is to reproduce the hum of the steeple. The piano has chords 
made up of thirds, mostly minor thirds, the strings chords in 
which tie intervals are more open and fifths are prominent to 
suggest the bell harmonics. The tolling of 'the one bell only' is 
put into the piano part by striking an octave G. In the last song 
'Clun' we have more slowly swaying chords but the arpeggios 
from the piano suggest the movement of the river. The end has 
the stillness of death achieved, as music can only achieve the effect 
of standstill, by slow motion, by distant oscillating chords a tone 


apart slowly and extremely softly spreading out to the extremes 
of the keyboard. 

The poetic impulse, the feeling for the English countryside, the 
visual and audible imagery of wind, river, and belfry are there, 
the irony, which is perhaps after half a century a little faded, is 
dramatically handled. But on the whole the cycle is not completely 
successful. The elaboration of the apparatus is at war to some 
extent with the greatest merit of Housman's verses their econ 
omy. The songs are reasonably terse, but Housman's poems are 
epigrammatic and do not take kindly to the retarding processes 
of music though Heaven knows some good Housman songs 
have been composed in spite of it. 

Phantasy Quintet 

The string quintet with two violas followed quickly on the 
first string quartet. Its date is about 1910. It is dedicated to W. "W. 
Cobbett, who is responsible for the 'Phantasy* of the tide. 

Cobbett, who died in 1937 at the age of ninety, was a wealthy 
amateur and a great devotee of chamber music: he compiled and 
edited the Cyclopaedia of Chamber Music which bears his name 
and he established a prize for new chamber compositions in 1905, 
of which the distinguishing feature was the single-movement 
form. The old English tide 'Phantasy' was adopted so as to 
differentiate it from full-length works of the sonata pattern in 
three or four movements, but there was no implication that the 
old imitative counterpoint was to be copied. Many essays in die 
form compressed four movements into one by substituting for 
the development section of an ordinary sonata movement a slow 
section with or without a scherzando section and for the recapitula 
tion a quick section and coda which would serve the dual purpose 
of recapitulation and finale. Stanford called it a 'tabloid prepara 
tion of the three or four movements of a sonata containing all 
ingredients of the prescription without exceeding the proportions 
of a single movement'. No form was prescribed however by 
Cobbett either for prize compositions or commissions. The only 


stipulation was that the work must pky in one continuous move 
ment and form a coherent whole. 

Vaughan Williams's quintet is one of the products of Cobbett's 
enterprise, and though it is not in the least like a sonata move 
ment, either full or condensed, its four movements are linked and 
have a common thematic origin. The first viola gives out a long 
theme shaped like a low arch, of which the first three bars contain 
the germinal motive: 

Ex. 1. Lento ma nan troppo_ 

Though it does not look it, this is a tune in a pentatonic F, and 
when the violins come in after ten bars they make a chord of F. 
The first violin has a solo, a rough inversion of the viola's theme, 
and that too ends on a chord of F. In the scale of pentatonic F the 
third and the sixth are missing and the seventh is flat. There is a 
juxtaposition of chords of A major, of G and C and 33 flat major, 
but the A chord is the antithetical pole to F. The Prelude ends 
with a repetition of Ex. i unaccompanied and an injunction to 
attack the Scherzo. 

This begins as though it is going to be an ostinato movement, 
rather like the ostinato in the Double Partita, which began life as 
a sextet, but the figure is not kept up, only its crotchet motion, 
which is seven to the bar taken prestissimo. The thematic conr- 
nexion with Ex. i is not immediately apparent, but sure enough 
after a while the second violin, marked 'solo', has this: 




The mark 'solo' is deliberately used to indicate where the 
melodic prominence is to be, and it is followed, as in the G minor 
string quartet, by a sign to signify where the instrument resumes 
its normal pkce in the ensemble. The central tonality of this 
movement is D, and when Ex. 2 reappears in the last section of it 
it is an acknowledged D major. 


In the third movement 'Alia Sarabanda' the thematic con 
nexion is made plain at the outset on the first violin: 

*" Lento 

$T} C\ jn~, rT^n f f \r r 
sg^ a j j. nEJ- i ir r ' i 1 ^ 

-5 ^3? 

The fourth movement is entitled 'Burlesca*. It begins contra- 
puntally and the relationship of the theme announced by the 
cello to Ex. i is confined to the rising fourth and the triplet: 

Ex. 4. 

Pizzicato, trills, a pom-pom bass, create liveliness, which is inter 
rupted by an andante section, molto sostenuto by contrast to all 
the rosin-splashing that has been going on, in which Ex. 4 appears 
in the bass while the treble has a tune above it which is a sort of 
cousin-once-removed of Ex. i. Then the Prelude returns and 
brings with it a slender cadenza founded on the high violin tune 
of the first movement. After that the pom-pom returns and there 
is a coda (andante) founded on Ex. 4. These alternations of theme 
and tempo serve to relate the finale to the earlier movements and 
so to unify the Phantasy. The work ends on a chord of D major. 
What has happened to the tonality? The basic key of the quintet 
is D minor. The Prelude was in a not too major kind of F; the 
Saraband was in F minor; the two quick movements were in an 
explicit D minor. F and D are dose relations. 

The work is slight but attractive. It deserves more frequent 
performance than it nowadays receives. 

String Quartet No. 2 in A minor 

'For Jean on her Birthday* 

This (second) string quartet dates from the time of the war and 
the Fifth Symphony, which it resembles in the character of its 
movements, namely Prelude, Romance, Scherzo, and Epilogue. 


The Epilogue is a short movement as befits its name, but in the 
character of its musical substance it is not unlike the Passacaglia 
which provides the close to the Fifth Symphony, whose earlier 
movements are also entitled Prelude, Scherzo, and Romance (in 
that order). But the nature of the music itself, as well as its lay 
out, is determined by the dedication, which is also part of the 
tide, 'For Jean on her Birthday'. The Jean of this tide, as of 
the litde cryptic 'Greetings from Joan to Jean' appended to the 
Epilogue, is Jean Stewart, the violist of the Menges String 
Quartet, who having for a long time urged upon Uncle Ralph, 
as the composer is affectionately known to a wide circle of friends, 
that he should write another string quartet, was delighted to 
receive out of the blue on her birthday two movements of a 
string quartet dedicated to her. She had had no inkling that her 
words were likely to bear fruit and later in the year she received 
the remaining two movements. In all four the viola has the first 
statement of the theme and is virtually leader of the consort in 
place of the first violin as in normal quartet writing, prima inter 
pares. This disposition has several far-reaching stylistic effects, 
most conspicuous perhaps in the imitational counterpoint of the 
Romance; but the success of the experiment is beyond doubt in a 
work of this length and weight. For, though resembling the Fifth 
Symphony in its serene atmosphere of quiet confidence and con 
tentment, the quartet is essentially a small work carrying no 
cosmic or even high public significance. The dedications with 
their very personal references have already been mentioned. There 
is a further reference to an outside source in the use, as thfc first 
subject of the Scherzo, of a theme from 4gth Parallel, a film 
for which Vaughan Williams had supplied music, which was 
certainly too good on the evidence of this movement alone to be 
thrown away on an ephemeral film. Something of the chill of 
the Canadian scene depicted in the film makes itself felt in the 
tremolando passages which accompany the theme: 



JJi; -J 


One further point which bears on the general character of the 
whole work, as in the parallel case of the Fifth Symphony, is 
the nature of the movements labelled Romance. Romance for 
Vaughan Williams is free from erotic emotion and seems radio: 
to signify something nearer to a tenderness for all humanity, 
which superficially seems almost religious. It is in this tract of 
human experience that Vaughan Williams reaches out to join 
hands with Beethoven, in feeling though not in any technically 
describable means of expression. 

The first performance was given by the Menges String Quartet 
at the National Gallery concert on 12 September 1944. 


The Prelude is a condensed sonata movement concerned chiefly 
with one theme, the first, that is announced immediately by the 
viola solo: 


The second theme, which is primarily concerned to offer a con 
trast of rhythms, is introduced at the first change of key, also by 
viola, against a syncopated accompaniment: 


^p express. 

This exposition is followed by a development in which both 
themes are elaborated and work up to a tonal and emotional 
climax. Whereafter, the first theme (Ex. 2) is recapitulated, though 
this part of the movement is more coda than recapitulation. In 
this tripartite movement the exposition is concise, though it allows 
for several presentations and treatments of the first theme; the 
middle section is nearly as long (three pages of the score as 
against the four of the exposition) and the coda is brief. If it is 
regarded (as above) as a condensed sonata movement the modi 
fication is not like that of the overture in which the development 


is omitted it is the recapitulation that has disappeared. Preludes 
are usually monothemaric movements. This one, as will be seen 
in the detailed analysis below, is not that, but the overall impres 
sion it makes is that of a discourse upon a text of which the 
essence is contained in the first bar. 

The theme (Ex. 2) after a solo statement is accompanied by 
parallel chords of the sixth in the rhythm of its first phrase (#). 
The semiquavers are given an innings before the theme comes 
up for its second presentation in imitational counterpoint. Its 
third statement is in the form of a stream of chords of the sixth 
in the top three parts against a bass in contrary motion. This is a 
somewhat extended version. The next and last restores the theme 
to the viola, accompanied by sixth chords, with the first bar doing 
duty in emphatic reiterations for the whole tune. 

The second theme, it has been said, is accompanied by off-the- 
beat chords, and the justification for describing it as an accom 
paniment may be found in the expression marks 'dolce' applied to 
the chords and 'espr/ applied to the viola's theme in triplets, but 
the rhythmic complications are really as important as the tune, 
for though they can be roughly summarized as syncopation they 
embody cross-rhythm of twos and threes against each other, thus: 

which is actually the accompaniment of Ex. 3 (though incidentally 
it does not bear the signature 9/8 in the score). Another feature 
of this section is the introduction in the later part of the theme of 
a motif compounded of a third and a semitone both descending. 
This third is minor or diminished and is sometimes written as an 
augmented second. 


o t 

This fretful interval comes out into the open in the development 
section, is indeed the accompaniment to the resumption of the 


first theme and provides at the climax all the emotional disturb 
ance of the tremolando chords in double-stopping. To alky this 
excitement the second theme (Ex. 3) is recalled over a pedal point 
on A with the general direction 'tranquillo'. The final affirmation 
of the first theme is fragmentarily accompanied by the violins 
playing the descending motif intermittently with it. 

This is not a passionate movement A minor is no key for high 
passions but it has a certain insistence. It is an argument on a 
serious theme pursued with fervour, but not the main purpose of 
the meeting, to which the players come in the next movement. 


The structural principle on which the slow movement, Ro 
mance, is built is the antithesis of imitation and its extreme 
opposite, block chords. The key is G minor. The strings are 
directed to pky senza vibrato, an instruction in due time cancelled 
by i cantabile*. The main theme is enunciated by each instrument 
in turn but is varied in length and detail, as each takes it up from 
its predecessor in a flowing web of non-metrical melodies. The 
viok begins 


f , Lento 

The second violin follows in the third bar, first violin in the 
tenth. Thereupon the bass immediately enters but with an in 
verted form of this tranquil and meditative tune. One bar in 
the second violin's statement is important for its figural use 

with or without anacrusis. 

It is used by the viok to punctuate the chords in E flat minor 
which constitute the second idea. The third idea introduces triplet 


movement and the key of F minor contiguous minor keys a 
tone apart seem to constitute the tonal scheme of this quartet. 
Against the triplets a new solo theme is played by the four 
instruments in turn, a tune not strongly contrasted with the first 
theme (Ex. 6), but a reinforcement of it: 


OTP cantobde 

This also is introduced imitationally in different octaves against 
an almost continuous counter-subject of triplets. Note the re 
semblance of the second bar to Ex. 7. 

In the brief development (thirteen bars) the triplet quavers and 
the chord idea of the second subject are combined so as to generate 
a climax. The recapitulation which then comes deals at full 
length with the first subject (Ex. 6) in the freest contrapuntal 
style, more briefly with die choral idea and with the triplets not 
at all. The movement runs down, paring away its thematic sub 
stance till only Ex. 7 is left, the viola having the last word, as it 
had had the first. 


This movement has no formal resemblance to the normal 
scherzo and trio, unless the chordal theme Ex. 9 

with its suggestion of a drone, which is historically a mark of the 
trio section of a minuet, can be regarded as the equivalent of a 
trio. But the general feeling of the movement is one of organic 
growth from Ex. I as its germinal motif. The origin of the move 
ment in the film would account for the continuity in place of 
the usual sectional structure of a scherzo. Its emotional purpose in 
the context of this string quartet is to provide the contrast, the 
presence of the alien element to be overcome and absorbed. 


Ex. I ('Theme from the "49th Parallel" '), so marked, is given 
out by the viola to be answered at once by the other strings in 
octaves playing 'con sordini', *sul ponticello', and tremolando. 
Next the other strings, still in octaves, take over Ex. i while the 
viola embarks on a new idea, a tune in double stops marked 

which as it unfolds itself becomes increasingly chromatic. A re 
statement of Ex. i, echoed by the other strings in octaves, leads 
to the onset of continuous triplet motion and still another, more 
wide-ranging theme from the viola: 

""- i -rffTf-nftrrffiFff 

This is in turn taken up by the other strings in octaves while 
the viola keeps triplet motion going. The climax to which all 
this leads is crowned by the abandonment of octaves and the 
substitution of four different rhythms for a few bars which lead 
into the section dominated by Ex. 9. It may be observed that the 
four fiats in the signature of Ex. i and all the first part of the 
Scherzo proclaim F minor but in feet produce a very flat form of 
G minor. Now that we come to the trio (if trio it is) we have G 
minor in name as well as practice. This section however is short 
(fourteen bars) and is linked by a short cadenza for the viola to a 
recapitulation of Exx. i and 9. As in the other movements this 
recapitulation is much condensed and is content to recall the 
principal themes with the merest hint of Exx. 10 and 1 1. The last 
few bars, coda if you like but very organic with the rest of the 
movement, are but an expansion in diminution of the viola's 


The short epilogue has a subtitle 'From Joan to Jean', Joan being 
Joan of Arc. The opening tune (Ex. 12) had at one time been 


destined for a film about Joan of Arc that did not materialize. So 
here again the composer's economy proved to be pure gain. It is 
a short meditation on a flowing tune in F major enunciated, as 
always, by the viola: 

Ex.12. . 

p cantabile 

The texture is clear; there is not a single accidental in the whole 
movement, except a passing G sharp in the second violin after 
the key has changed to D major, which it does for the second 
half of the movement. The triplet feature prevents the counter 
point from stagnating; the opening bar of Ex. 12 lends itself to 
gentle imitation now and again but not too often. When the key 
changes to D the direction 'tranquillo' is added, and so indeed the 
quartet ends. 

Household Music and Suite for Pipes 

Besides the string quartets and quintets which are chamber 
music of the aristocratic sort, Vaughan Williams has considered 
the needs of the lowly in the Household Music and the Suite for 

The score of the Household Music is set out as for string 
quartet with an optional horn part, which may be played or 
omitted without involving any other members of the consort. 
But for the strings may be substituted oboe, clarinet, flute, re 
corder, saxophone or cornet, or their equivalents at different 
pitches the bass alternatives thus being bassoon, bass clarinet, 
recorder, B flat saxophone, and euphonium. The violin and cello 
in combination may requisition the viola part. Alternative parts 
are provided for transposing instruments. The work dates from 
1941 when ordinary musical life was disrupted, and on the other 
hand at camps and aerodromes men and women with the most 


varied musical abilities discovered each other and could get to 
gether if only they could find something to play. For reasons of 
compass and a common denominator of musical experience 
hymn-tunes were chosen as the basis of Household Music just 
as the brass bands started their life with hymns as their point of 
departure. The three movements are a Fantasia based on *Crug-y- 
bar', a Scherzo based on 'St. Denio', and a set of variations on 
'Aberystwyth'. All the tunes be it noted are Welsh, as are those 
which form the subjects for the three Preludes for organ (*Bryn 
Calfaria', 'Rhosymedre', 'Hyfrydol'). All these except Crug-y- 
bar' were included by Vaughan Williams in The English Hymnal. 
The Fantasia is like one of Bach's chorale preludes in that it 
uses the constituent phrases of the tune as the basis for freely 
flowing counterpoint. *Crug-y-bar' (to be found in Songs of 
Praise, No. 609) contains the quasi-syncopations found in some 
Welsh folk-songs 'Mae'nghariad i'n Fenws* (My sweetheart's 
like Venus) is a well-known instance and it is the rhythmic 
pecularity of Ex. I that is exploited in the part-writing. 



The Scherzo is again founded 011 a rhythmic feature, not in this 
case present in the tune itself (English Hymnal, No. 407), but im 
posed on it by making the bar contain sometimes three crotchets 
and sometimes six quavers, i.e. by alternating simple and com 
pound time. The bell-like character of the tune was brought 
out by Hoist when he used it for his 'Festival Chime* and the 
point of the Scherzo can be described as the combination of 
pealing and chiming bells. 

* Aberystwyth' is a tune composed by Joseph Parry for i hymn- 
book issued in 1879. By the turn of the century it had displaced 
J. B. Dykes's tune 'Hollingside' for 'J esu Lover of my Soul', 


though Vaughan Williams in The English Hymnal keeps 'Holling- 
side' for that hymn and uses 'Aberystwyth* for 'Saviour when in 
dust to Thee*. The theme is not stated in hymn-like harmony but 
is divided contrapuntally between the four parts. Eight variations 

The first public performance was in the form of the string 
quartet at a Boosey and Hawkes concert on 5 October 1941 by 
the Blech Quartet. 

The Suite for Pipes was written for the Pipers* Guild Quartet 
the pipes in question being home-made bamboo pipes played like 
recorders. The players bring with them an armful apiece so as to 
have one available for every key required. The score merely pre 
scribes treble, alto, bass, but several keys appear in this suite. 

There are four movements one Intrada and three in dance 
forms. The chief concessions to the limitations of the instruments, 
which are weak in overtones, is the use of unison and octave 
passages whereby some reinforcement is brought to the first few 
upper partials which are all that the pipes produce hence their 
cool but monotonous tone. The Intrada in D major is founded on 

Ex, 2. Moderate maestoso 

This gapped fanfare and flourish lends itself to imitational coun 
terpointparallel instances can be found up and down Vaughan 
Williams's work, in the Serenade to Music, for instance, and in 
The Sons of Light. An alternating phrase is provided by a march 
tune which is evolved out of Ex. i by augmentation. The second 
movement is a Minuet in A without a sixth in the scale, but the 
tonality is kept unstable as though uncertain whether to come 
down in F sharp minor or B minor. The Trio is in B minor. 
There is much octave writing in this movement. The third move 
ment is a Valse in B minor with a trio in A thus reciprocating the 
tonal scheme of the Minuet, but again the keys are fluid. The 
Hnale is a jig in G in which key the suite ends. 

Works directly based on 


VAUGHAN WILLIAMS has repaid his general indebtedness to 
folk-music by adopting for certain original compositions folk 
themes and has thereby contributed something unique to the 
heritage of English music. The differences between folk and com 
posed, traditional and popular music are sharply drawn in Britain. 
In some European countries, including our own Celtic fringe, the 
distinction cannot be so clearly maintained in some cultures, for 
instance, composition does not aim at being original but at being 
well within a folk tradition. For us however a folk-song is a song 
of unknown authorship preserved, or, as Cecil Sharp said, created, 
by oral transmission. Whatever the ultimate origin the folk 
character of such a song is the product of transmission without 
the fixative intervention of print. But even with us folk-music 
and composed music sometimes come nearer together than at 
others the Elizabethan era was such a time and the nationalist 
schools of the Continent, Russia, Bohemia, and Hungary, in which 
folk-music is a direct fertilizing influence upon original composi 
tion, manifest a similar rapprochement. 

In Vaughan Williams however the folk element is to be seen 
in two quite separate states the pervasive and the specific. It is a 
paradox of folk-music that those who care most for it, the collec 
tors for instance who have gone direct to the oral tradition to 
record the tunes of the people, and are most aware of its intrinsic 
value in its unharmonized state, have never been able to resist the 
temptation of finding a further value in it as the raw material for 
more complex arts of arrangement and of free composition. 
Vaughan Williams is at once lover, scholar, and collector of folk- 
tunes, but he is also an inveterate arranger and re-composer of 
folk material. 


The general problem of the use of folk-music thematically in 
extended composition emerged among the nationalist composers 
of the nineteenth century. A certain recalcitrance of tunes to the 
process of symphonic development soon became manifest when 
the nationalist composers began to use folk-tunes as themes for 
symphonies. Composers then tried a rather looser form of treat 
ment of folk-tunes, being reluctant to forgo the outstanding 
melodic beauty of this materia musica this was the rhapsody. 
Vaughan Williams himself adopted this plan in his Three Norfolk 
Rhapsodies. Frank variation on a folk-melody offered another 
possibility, of which Delius availed himself in 'Brigg Fair', though 
his touch changed the character of the song. Ultimately however 
it was in the absorption of folk-song idiom into a personal style, 
as practised, for instance, by Dvorak, Bartok, and Vaughan 
Williams, that the fertilizations of folk-song became most potent. 

Nevertheless Vaughan Williams has in a few compositions 
gone some way to disprove Constant Lambert's brilliant half- 
truth 'the whole trouble with a folk-song is that once you have 
played it through there is nothing more you can do except pky 
it over again and play it rather louder*. These works are the 
Norfolk Rhapsody, the Fantasia on Christmas Carols, the Fantasia 
on Sussex folk-tunes for cello, which has now however been 
'scrapped', the Running Set, written for dance accompaniment, 
the English Folk-Song Suite originally written for military band, 
and the Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus'. 

Somewhere between folk-song arrangement and original com 
position comes a small suite of Six Studies in English Folk-Song 
for cello and piano which was published in 1927 and dedicated to 
May Mukle. There are alternative versions of the solo part for 
violin, viola, and clarinet. These little pieces are not, according to 
the composer, exact transcriptions of specific and identifiable folk 
songs, but each is founded on a strophic melody with a recogniz 
able likeness to a definite type of folk-tune, The first is in feet the 
tune out of which Vaughan Williams made the part-song 'The 
Spring Time of the Year' the original is the ballad 'Lovely on 
the Water'. The second tune has a wide compass, an octave drop 
and a half-way feminine cadence of three repeated notes like 


many Irish tunes. The third is a good square ballad tune in the 
Aeolian mode, the fourth a carol, the fifth a love song. Number 
six is the Scherzo of the set, a brisk patter song. The accompani 
ments are lightly written for the piano and show an aptitude for 
bringing out rather than smothering the character of die tune. 

Norfolk Rhapsody 

On 4 December 1903 , Vaughan Williams took down from the 
singing of an Essex shepherd near Brentwood the folk-song 
'Bushes and Briars' a song, like 'The Seeds of Love' heard by 
Cecil Sharp from the lips of a gardener in Somerset three months 
earlier, that has made history. For it and the other songs of that 
East Anglian harvest were decisive in the formation of Vaughan 
Williams's personal style, since, as is well known, he did not get 
everything he wanted from a good academic training at Cam 
bridge and the Royal College of Music. The modality, the forth 
right lyricism, the Englishness of the buried heritage of English 
folk-song were what he needed in his struggle to free himself 
from the major and minor, tonic and dominant of German and 
Italian orthodoxy. 

The first-fruits of the folk-song expeditions to East Anglia 
were the three Norfolk Rhapsodies, of which only the first in E 
minor has been allowed to survive, and the Symphonic Impres 
sion In the Fen Country, all of which date from about 1904. The 
first performance of this Norfolk Rhapsody is ascribed to 1906. 
The two chief tunes in it were collected from two King's Lynn 
fishermen on 9 January 1905. The first, 'The Captain's Appren 
tice*, is a regular Peter Grimes episode of the rough life of the 
sea. The other tune belongs to a livelier ballad, 'On board a 
Ninety-Eight', which tells of a pressed youth who served his 
time in the Navy and ended as a Greenwich pensioner. It ends 
with the humorous couplet 

But, damme, I'm too old to sing, 
I'm nearly ninety-eight. 


The Riapsody would seem to have survived the composer's 
self-criticism because even so early there appear the finger-prints 
of his mature style which he would not feel conscious of having 
entirely outgrown the opening rhapsodical solo for viola, the 
accompaniment to this first adumbration of the tune with con 
secutive triads, the striding basses in the middle section, a brief 
passage for brass chorus alone at the coda, which is a feature found 
in his later symphonies. The form of the work consists of the 
following sequence: a soft opening, the viola's quasi-improvisa- 
rion which becomes "The Captain's Apprentice', a development 
section in which some snatches of the tune are discussed and inter 
rupted by an episode made up of a snatch of a 9/8 tune, not 
identifiable nor complete but folkish in character; the second 
tune 'On board a Ninety-Eight' is fully stated and is followed 
by a similar commentary attached to it in which some use is 
made of more sustained counter-melodies; the final section recalls 
'The Captain's Apprentice' rather by way of reminiscence than 
restatement; the passage for brass just mentioned clinches it; the 
last page is an echo of the first. It is therefore a kind of binary 
movement, not too tight but quite coherent. The scoring has a 
charm of its own as well as being a suitable setting for the tunes. 
Perhaps because of its brevity the work survives from a time 
when more ambitious Rhapsodies were collapsing under the 
strain of attempts at symphonic development. 

The Running Set 

The Running Set, which is available for medium orchestra and 
in an arrangement for two-piano duet by Vally Lasker and Helen 
Bidder, is not merely an arrangement of folk-tunes but an actual 
accompaniment for folk-dancing. A note prefixed to the score 
explains that the Running Set is a dance found by Cecil Sharp in 
the Appalachian Mountains of America in 1917, which had how 
ever lost its tune Sharp's earliest description of it says it was 
danced to stamping and clapping of onlookers. It was thought 


by Sharp to be of British origin, for the mountain country was 
still isolated enough to have preserved many characteristics of 
seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English life. The Appala 
chian folk-songs, for instance, often show features indicative of an 
earlier form of the same tune that Sharp had already collected in 
England: *The Cuckoo' is an example of the same tune existing 
in a pentatonic and almost syllabic form in America and in a 
heptatonic form with tied notes to some syllables in Britain. But 
there was no direct relationship between the Running Set and any 
surviving country dance, and it had one feature unknown to 
English dancing but since become familiar in the American square 
dances the Caller. Sharp however was convinced of its English 
parentage and was prepared to add it to the repertory of country 
dances regularly danced by the English Folk Dance Society, and 
for the purpose he fitted it with some suitable English dance tunes 
in 6/8 time. 

The dance is a swift moto perpetuo with the Caller directing 
the sequence of figures by a rhymed and musical instruction 
amente pede. 

The occasion of Vaughan Williams's arrangement was one of 
the annual New Year Festivals of the English Folk Dance Society 
at the Albert Hall in London. The tunes incorporated are 'Barrack 
Hill', 'The Blackthorn Stick', 'Irish Reel', and 'Cock o' the 
North', the last-named occurring at the point where the Caller 
needed a strong lead to a difficult new figure a well-known air 
was to be provided to guide the dancers. 'This was accordingly 
done' says the Preface. *The Blackthorn Stick' appears in collec 
tions of Irish traditional tunes but Vaughan Williams got it from 
the playing of Miss Elsie Avril, who in turn got it from the 
traditional fiddler of the Earsdon (Northumberland) sword- 

The orchestration is for double woodwind, two each of horns 
and trumpets, no timpani but side-drum and triangle, a piano and 


English Folk-Song Suite 

The loose method of stringing folk-tunes together in easy 
sequence without attempt at development is employed in the 
English Folk-Song Suite, which Vaughan Williams wrote origin 
ally for military band at the request of Colonel Somerville when 
he was Commandant of Kneller Hall. The medium does not call 
for much homogeneity or unity, its favourite stand-by in the 
repertory being the operatic pot-pourri. A string of folk-songs is 
therefore as good as a string of operatic arias, and there is no 
difficulty about keys: tonality at least the composer-compiler can 
organize without arrangement or transposition and he can in 
choosing his keys do something to provide structural unity, not 
to the extent to which key is the vital element in sonata form, 
but at any rate to the extent to which key relationship is effective 
in the structure of minuet and trio. So although the tunes are 
pkced in juxtaposition without attempt to relate or combine 
them at any rate until the last movement their keys are dis 
posed to enable the composer to have his first movement in one 
type of march form, his middle movement an intermezzo in 
simple ternary form, and his finale a march in the conventional 
form (with however only one trio). 

The first march, which is founded on ' Seventeen come Sunday' 
and two other tunes, has a middle section which, being marked 
to be repeated, could be regarded as a trio, though it is in the tonic 
key and is if anything livelier than the main march tune. But the 
form of the whole is really what has been called by the pundits 
Bogen or bow form. We have a main march section in F minor 
(Dorian) with 'Seventeen come Sunday* played through twice 
for first subject and 'Pretty Caroline' in A flat for second subject. 
Then comes the middle section, a quasi-trio, but in F minor, a 
jig tune, volkstumlich and original not a folk-tune, duly marked 
to be repeated. When the recapitulation comes the second subject, 
Ex. i, is heard first before * Seventeen come Sunday* returns 
to finish the march. 


The Intermezzo has for first subject the tune, also in F minor, 
'My Bonny Boy' as noted by Vaughan Williams at King's Lynn 
in 1905; the middle section, 'allegretto scherzando', consists of 
'Green Bushes* pkyed twice; 'My Bonny Boy* returns in the 

The finale is labelled March with a second caption 'Folk-Songs 
from Somerset*. The main tune is 'Blow away the morning dew*, 
collected by Cecil Sharp, in B flat. This is followed by 'High 
Germany', a modal tune with a marching lilt. The trio, in this 
case so marked, consists of 'The tree so high' in C minor and 
'John Barleycorn* given out on trombones in E flat. The trio is 
repeated, the March returns with 'Morning Dew* and 'High 

There is no attempt at development. It is a suite differing from 
the classical suite in avoiding the pure binary form and in using 
song tunes instead of dance tunes. 

The transcription from military band to orchestral score was 
made in 1924 by Dr. Gordon Jacob, who is the chief liaison 
officer between bands and orchestras. The full score was not 
published till 1942. 

Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus' 

In spite of its tide this work is really a set of variations on a 
tune for which Vaughan Williams has obviously a great affection, 
as he has no less obviously for 'Searching for lambs'. There is an 
allusion to 'Dives and Lazarus* in Hugh the Drover and the five 
variants here elaborated are not really variants in the folk-song 
collector's sense, meaning different versions of the same tune 
turning up somewhere else, obviously the same tune, but ob 
viously different in details of rhythm or contour or note-values, 
but are variations based on different forms of the tune. The com 
poser notes in the score that 'these variants are not exact replicas 
of traditional tunes, but rather reminiscences of various versions 


in my own collection and those of others*. The tune is indeed 
Protean. The form of it used here is this: 


As it fell oui up - on one day Rich Di-ve-rus he made a 

feast ; And he in - vT^"- ted all his friends And gen - try of the 

best. And it fell out up - on one day, Poor La-za-rushe was_ so 

poor, He came and laid him down and down, Ev'n down at Di-ve-rus' 

9'" I V* 11 

door And it fell out up - on one day. Poor La-za-rus he was so 

poor, He came and laid him down and down, Ev'n down at Di-ve-rus' door 

Parallel versions are innumerable: some of them are 'The Star 
of the County Down* in Ireland, 'Gilderoy' in Scotland, the carol 
'Come all ye faithful Christians' in many parts of England, and 
'The Murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn* in Norfolk, where 
Vaughan Williams collected the version which is used as the fifth 
variant in this work. What seems to have happened is that the 
composer, recalling the tune without reference to any of these 
(and many more) sets of words, has modified it in transmitting it, 
just as a folk-singer does. They are in fact his own variants, 
except the last which is a variant in the strict scientific sense. 

The tune as it appears in English County Songs was noted by 
A. J. Hipkins in Westminster and Earl's Court well back in the 
last century but without words. The ballad of 'Dives and Lazarus* 
Dives more usually appears as Diverus was however sung to 
it in those localities by street singers, as was ascertained by Lucy 
Broadwood before she printed tune and balkd together. The 
ballad itself goes back to the sixteenth century at least and is 


mentioned by Fletcher in the comedy Monsieur Thomas. Between 
that time and the metamorphosis of the ballad into the Murder 
in the Red Barn the tune seems to have served mostly as a 
Christmas carol, though English County Songs prints two other 
variants as 'The Thresher' and 'Cold blows the wind'. Those 
interested in the new study practised more in America than here, 
the genealogy of tunes, can find some of the cousins and aunts of 
'Lazarus' in the Folk Song Journal No. 7 (1905). 

The kyout of the work is for strings and harp, the strings being 
subdivided into two viola and two cello parts each, making seven 
in all. The tune is stated in rich harmony after an introduction 
of two bars and appended to the statement is a coda in imita 
tive counterpoint. The first variant goes to triple time, which is 
not found in any extant version of the ballad, the texture is lighter, 
and the harp becomes a soloist with a running embroidery of the 
tune, but the tune itself does not appear, only its outline. The 
second variant is a mere sketch of the tune in three-bar phrases. 
The third variant is a real restatement in seven-bar phrases in D 
minor followed by a variation of itself in F minor. The fourth 
variant is livelier, more like a variation than a variant. The fifth 
variant is a true variant being, but for slight changes due to a vocal 
tune becoming an instrumental melody, the version collected by 
Vaughan Williams in 1905 to the words of 'Maria Marten'. It is 
played totti and forte, and has a coda in which a cello solo leads to 
some quiet chords and one of those rising arpeggios that are a 
minor finger-print of the composer's style. This variant is like 
enough to Hipkins's tune to serve the purpose of a recapitulation. 

The work was commissioned by die British Council among 
the works to represent English music at the World's Fair in 
America in 1939, where it had its first performance under Sir 
Adrian Boult. It was first played in England at a B.B.C. concert 
at the Colston Hall, Bristol, on I November 1939. 

The Songs 

IT is difficult for anyone who first learned the name of Vaughan 
Williams from the cover of a song and encountered his music at 
an impressionable age of life in 'The Roadside Fire', 'Silent Noon*, 
'Linden Lea', and 'Whither shall I wander' to bring critical 
objectivity to bear upon these early songs. They recall the voices 
of the dead who sang them; they evoke as nothing else the actual 
feeling of being not yet twenty and of not contemplating war as 
one of life's possibilities. From their overwhelming personal 
significance the only wider import that emerges is that they were 
different from the other music that was to be encountered in the 
first decade of the century. 'Normal' music of that time was 
couched in the harmonic language of Mendelssohn and Brahms; 
folk-song, newly discovered, sounded queer, with its flattened 
sevenths and strange minor modes; the music of Vaughan 
Williams, obviously good and in a class other than the all-pervasive 
royalty ballad, was a little queer too, contained wrong notes in the 
accompaniments but was strong stuff, fitted the open-air poetry of 
R. L. Stevenson, and indeed of the stronger-scented but still fresh 
air of Rossetti's 'Silent Noon', and above all belonged to us, to 
our generation, to Edwardians who had emerged 'from the 
Victorian Age. Even as a young man in songs which in retrospect 
appear only partly characteristic Vaughan Williams was an eman 
cipator. Even before he had found himself 'Whither shall I 
wander* was composed in 1894, years before 'Bushes and Briars' 
was to set him on to Neue Bahnen, the new paths he was subse 
quently to tread the voice was challenging. 

'Linden Lea', though it too came before the discovery of folk 
song in 1903 it is officially dated c. 1900 is a landmark. It is, 
is it not? the only true Volkstumlicheliect in the corpus of English 
song. The words by William Barnes, who wrote in Dorset 
dialect, are described as folk-song, and Barnes probably, like 


Burns, took a local song and tidied it up by attending to its 
rhymes and regularizing its spelling. The tune Vaughan Williams 
wrote for it is nearer in shape and behaviour to a traditional than 
to a folk-song its form is AABA and the half-way cadence im 
plies a dominant modulation, though Vaughan Williams side 
steps it. He also avoids the leadingntiote in his melody except for 
a single appearance as a passing-note, so that the tune is virtually 
hexatonic. Folk-song threw its shadow over this song as a coming 
event. Vaughan Williams's first published song, in a magazine 
called The Vocalist in 1902, was also a ballad-like setting of words 
by Barnes, 'Blackenmore by the Stour*. More than fifty years 
later Vaughan Williams returned to Barnes and set 'In the Spring', 
which he dedicated to the Barnes Society. Here again is the note 
of the fresh English countryside the dialect inevitably evokes 
it but this delicious song belongs less to the folk element in the 
composer than to the lyrical vein he tapped in 'See the chariot at 
hand' (which is detachable from Sir John in Love} and is even, 
though less obviously, related to * Silent Noon'. 

"Silent Noon* is one of the songs that won for itself an enormous 
popularity, like Ireland's 'Sea Fever' a generation later. It is in 
feet the second of a cycle of six sonnets by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 
which bears the tide The House of Life. It deserves to survive as 
the others can hardly be expected to do, for it is a completely 
integrated song as the others are not. The imagery of the poem 
is caught up into the music so that all the shimmer of a summer 
day comes out of the syncopated figure of the accompaniment 
and its stillness is curiously conveyed by the little to-and-fro tune 
that is half submerged in the chords of the pianist's right hand. 
And then the brief break into quasi-recitative preserves the form 
of the sonnet by destroying the illusion that it is a strophic song 
in quatrains. The first song of the cycle has an elaborate prelude 
and postlude and uses the swaying figure of accompaniment, 
which is common enough in all piano writing, but is a favourite 
device of Vaughan Williams for spelling out his harmonies, 
especially his 'added note' harmonies. "Love's Minstrels', No. 3, 
is prophetic, though it is not successful. It begins with a sharp 
juxtaposition of triads, D major in its second position and F minor 


in its root position. A passage senza misura, a feature of which the 
ultimate source was no doubt plainsong, is an early example of 
what becomes common in later works. 'Heart's Haven* is typical 
of its period and is correspondingly dated and outmoded now; in 
this respect it is comparable with some of Parry's English Lyrics, 
which now seem less characteristically Parry than ninetyish, or, 
in a too brusque judgement, a little 'cheap'. 'Death in Love' 
is an essay in the grandiose manner, but it too has a finger-print 
of the later style in its use of trumpet figures. The first strain of 
melody of No. 6, 'Love's Last Gift', is a portent of the simple 
diatonic formula that was to serve many a turn in the future 
"For all the saints' (Sine nomine) of The English Hymnal and 'O 
taste and see' (Coronation Service, 1953), to name two instances. 

In the two volumes of Songs of Travel, containing seven songs 
in all, the authentic Vaughan Williams appears with all the 
mnetyish atmosphere dispersed and proclaiming (as I have already 
confessed for myself) the new era. In 'The Vagabond' the open 
fifths and fourths appear and the striding bass. 'The Roadside 
Fire* produced something new in piano accompaniments which 
proved to be a teaser to the modest amateur pianist and these 
songs were pounced on by the amateur who had heard Frederick 
Austin or Plunket Greene or John Coates sing them. The second 
set did not make quite so strong an appeal, and only 'The Infinite 
Shining Heavens' had the same open-air feeling of the first 

To the early period belongs 'L'amour de moy', set in an easy 
cross-rhythm of 6/4 against 4/4, which is the first of a small 
group of arrangements of French folk-songs, that includes an old 
French battle song, a quete song, and 'La ballade du Jesus Christ'. 
Two settings of old German songs, of which the texts were trans 
lated by Walter Ford, belong to the same year as these last, 1937. 
The arrangement of English folk-songs for piano accompaniment 
are innumerable. Like the less numerous arrangements as part- 


songs for S.A.T.B., they establish the paradox that the more 
personal is the setting the more does it enhance the communal 
character of the tune; the colourless impersonal setting so far 
from preserving the integrity of the tune emaciates it. Brahms's 
settings of German folk-songs and Bartok's of Hungarian con 
firm what Vaughan Williams's settings of English folk-songs 
proclaim, that Ernest Walker's dictum x about arrangement 
tending *to merge it in the general mass of musicians' music' is 
not the whole truth of the matter. 

The Four Hymns for tenor voice they were dedicated to 
Steuart Wilson piano and viola obbligato belong to the group 
of works with apocalyptic or metaphysical words, of which the 
Five Mystical Songs (with words by George Herbert) were the 
immediate predecessor, the dates being 1911 for the Five Mystical 
Swigs and 1912-14 for the composition of the Four Hymns, 
though they were notperformed till 1920 after the war. The words 
are by Bishop Jeremy Taylor (1616), Isaac Watts (1674-1748), 
Richard Crashaw (1616-49), and of the final 'Evening Hymn* 
Robert Bridges, who translated O Gladsome Light* from the 
Greek of the Early Church. The first Hymn, 'Lord, come away', 
alternates between free declamation sustained only by chords and 
an alia marcia section that picks up the ideas of Palm Sunday and 
the Cleansing of the Temple. Consecutive chords of the sixth, to 
which the composer resorts by natural inclination in treating 
religious ideas, occur in the piano part. Indeed parallel sixths, to 
which are added some open consecutive fifths in the bass, con 
stitute the whole of the accompaniment to No. 3, 'Come Love, 
come Lord*. Even before 1914 the mature style, wholly idio 
syncratic, has thus developed. Other features of it are apparent 
in No. 2, 'Who is this fair one?', which is based on a pastoral tune 
for the viok in the Phrygian mode (with the sixth often sharpened 
in prominent positions): 


p senia express. 

1 History tfMusk m Englmd, 3rd Edn. p. 362. 


The harmony is determined by the mode; the viok has an inde 
pendent part of increasing animation and melismatic excitement. 
The words seem to derive from The Song of Songs and the re 
semblance of the music to Flos Campi, still ten years in the future, 
is not confined to the scoring for a solo viola. In 'Evening Hymn', 
over an ostinato 


Andante con mow 

-J J J I "" [ i P \j* ~ 

which, it will be observed, is out of step with the bar accents, the 
viok introduces a chorale-like melody, which is borrowed by the 
voice for the words. The total effect is like that of one of Bach's 
figured chorales. 

Song writing decreases after Vaughan Williams's middle years, 
and 1925 saw the publication of the kst substantial batch of songs. 
These were Three Poems by Walt Whitman and Four Poems by 
Fredegond Shove, and Two Poems by Seumas O'Sullivan. Of 
these 'The Water Mill* is the best known. Miss Shove's poem is 
a kind of whimsical Theocritan idyll, and the music, with Schu- 
bertian accompaniment of wheel and water, by dekying the 
speed of the verse a little intensifies the listener's curiosity about 
what happens. 'The New Ghost' is also a narrative song, such as 
hardly invites musical setting. The O' Sullivan songs may at 
pleasure be sung unaccompanied, which means that die accom 
paniment is tenuous. The bekted return to Whitman does not 
seem very fruitful. 

One or two folk-songs were set for voice and violin, the 
medium whose striking possibilities Hoist discovered in his four 
medieval songs for voice and violin. Following the idea up, 
Vaughan Williams set nine poems of Housman for the same 
combination, but they were not published (under the title 'Along 
the Field') till nearly thirty years after they were composed. The 
composer does not remember when that was, but Housman's 
Last Poems , from which five of the eight, formerly nine, songs are 
taken, came out in 1922. The set begins with the verse which the 
poet prefixed to the volume in which he said farewell to his muse, 


'We'll to the woods no more'. The three Shropshire Lad poems are 
provided with straightforward diatonic tunes not far removed 
from the manner of folk-song. The most recondite of the set in 
vocal line and in its restless quaver accompaniment is the fifth, 
'The sigh that heaves the grasses', and the biggest is 'Fancy's 
Knell', a declamatory song with free commentary from the violin. 
The violin writing is naturally the feature to which curiosity turns. 
In the Prologue it is an arabesque in a loose imitation of the vocal 
line; in 'Along the Field' it is a few bare double-stops. The 'half- 
moon' of No. 3 is depicted with swaying thirds in slow double- 
stops; in 'In the morning' the violin rides high like a bird. In 
the ballad-like 'Good-bye' it keeps up a lilting six-eight rhythm; 
in 'With rue my heart is laden' the two parts run in very simple 

There are two quite different settings of 'Orpheus with his lute*, 
one not later than 1903 and one some twenty years later. The 
early one, though fresh as a dewdrop and delightful, might be by 
any English composer so far as a distinct musical personality 
emerges from it, least of all the later Vaughan Williams. The 
later setting is simpler it can be used as a school unison song 
but it shows the later manner in its harmony with added notes to 
primary chords, producing the curdled sweetness that is to be 
found in the songs of The Poisoned Kiss and in the Serenade to 
Music. One need not extract too much significance from the 
superficially surprising feet that a composer can so far forget his 
own offspring as to come afresh to the same words. The second 
'Orpheus' belongs to a set of three Shakespeare settings published 
about 1925. 

Most of the part-songs are arrangements of folk or traditional 
songs or carols, but 'Sound Sleep' for female voices once had a 
vogue, along with Elgar's 'Fly, Singing Bird', as a competition 
test-piece. Of the folk-song arrangements the five English Folk- 
Songs ('The Dark-eyed Sailor', 'The Spring-time of the Year*, 
'Just as the Tide was flowing', 'The Lover's Ghost', and 'Wassail 
Song*) have become classics. Sung by the English Singers they 
carried the gospel of English folk-song into all lands. There are 


some unison songs, which can optionally be sung in parts. 
'England, my England', for instance, is called a choral song and 
can be sung by baritone solo, chorus in unison or chorus in parts, 
or a mixture of all three, with orchestra. The Six Choral Songs 
of 1940 are similarly for singing with orchestral accompaniment 
and have patriotic aspiration as their subject the words of these 
songs 'to be sung in time of war' are all from Shelley. 'The New 
Commonwealth' from the same period belongs to the same class, 
though the words are by Harold Child and the music is borrowed 
from the Prelude to the film music of 4?th Parallel Of the Shelley 
songs the last, 'A Song of the New Age', is the biggest and most 
striking: in it the ambiguity of the grouping of six crotchets to 
the bar is rhythmically exploited and the blazing contrast of 
A minor and A major made to express hopes of a faker future, 
which the unquenchable spirit of man contrives to extract from 
the disaster of war. 

Church Music 

VAUGHAN WIIXIAMS'S chief gift to the Church is the work he 
did on the editing of The English Hymnal in 1906 and of Songs of 
Praise in 1925. For these hymn-books he composed many new 
tunes and converted some English traditional melodies into hymn- 
tunes. Both books went into revised editions in the early 'thirties 
and now contain much in common. The publication of The 
English Hymnal was a direct challenge to the easy sentimentality 
which the Church Music Society was founded to combat about 
the same time, and the Editor's taste and fresh outlook in the 
choice of tunes had far-reaching effects over and above his own 
contributions, which won general acceptance. Of these 'Sine 
nomine' to 'For all the saints' is the best known (English Hymnal, 
No. 641). Some of the others were specifically designed for 
unison singing, notably 'Abinger', a tune that rivals Hoist's 
'Jupiter* tune for 'I vow to thee, my country' (Songs of Praise, 
No. 319) though it is described, rightly, as a canticle rather than 


a hymn, and 'King's Western' (English Hymnal, No. 368) for 'At 
the name of Jesus', which is in three-part harmony. The some 
what similar editorial work which Vaughan Williams did for 
The Oxford Carol Book enriched the Church indirectly, but it 
hardly counts as church music; it is really a product of the two 
interests, hymnody and folk-song. 

Of church music in the specific sense, which means settings of 
the canticles, the chief is a complete service Matins, Com 
munion, and Evensong in D minor. It has a special feature which 
is very characteristic of the composer's sympathies it contains a 
part for unison singing to be used as an obbligato to the normal 
kyout for four-part choir and organ. It was designed for college 
chapels where the possibility of combining congregational singing 
with the elaborate settings of the canticles is not too hopelessly 
impracticable, and it was in fact written in the first instance for, 
and dedicated to, Dr. C. S. Lang and Christ's Hospital. The musk 
is therefore forthright and relies for its expressiveness largely on 
non-chromatic key-changes to near and related keys, which 
sufficiently break up the too, too solid jubilation of the Te Deum, 
and allow the Sanctus in the Communion Service to take the 
form of a pastoral phrase in F major mounting to a climax of 
tone. A similar combination of a congregational unison with the 
elaboration of a setting suitable to liturgical requirements was 
attempted in the arrangement of the 'Old Hundredth' for the 
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth EL The suggestion that the con 
gregation should be allowed active participation in the ceremony 
came from Dr. Vaughan Williams and was approved by the Arch 
bishop of Canterbury. It was accepted with enthusiasm by the 
congregation in Westminster Abbey but it came to grief because 
the nobility and gentry were not informed in the service book 
which they held in their hands that two of the verses were reserved 
for choir only one with a trumpet descant. An earlier example 
of the same way of treating hymns ceremonially was the setting of 
*All hail the power* to the tune 'Miles Lane' by William Shrub- 
sole, to whom Vaughan Williams devotes an essay in his collection 
of prose writings. 

There are two independent settings of Te Deum, each of them 


'occasional 3 . The Te Deum in G was composed for the enthrone 
ment of Dr. Cosmo Lang as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1928; it 
contains many unison passages but also others for the antiphony of 
Cantoris and Decani with organ. The Festival Te Deum Founded on 
Traditional Themes was composed for the Coronation of King 
George VI and has therefore an orchestral as well as an organ 
accompaniment. There are two recognizable folk-tunes, one of 
the ballad type with a Dorian tune like this: 


f ' 1- ,. J 1 1 1 1 II 

S' U j=a=J=- 
It's of a rich young f 

Q f risduto 

if mer 


Vp A r * - jj -m 

The glo - ri-ous com-] 

pa-ny of ihe A-pos-tles praise 

I* 1 J .- 


The other at 'When Thou tookest upon Thee' turns off into 
'Dives and Lazarus'. 

There are no anthems in the ordinary sense, only a number of 
motets, mostly composed for special occasions, such as 'The Souls 
of the Righteous* composed for the Dedication Service of the 
Battle of Britain Chapel in Westminster Abbey in 1947. 

The Mass in G minor is liturgical in intention and has been sung 
in both the Roman and the English rites but it has also achieved 
a wider use. In general Vaughan Williams stands outside the 
Anglican tradition he held only one organist post for a short 
time and his attitude to church and cathedral is not that of those 
whose business is to maintain a ritual 'daily throughout the year' 
but is infused with a kind of democratic idealism that finds its 
expression in special occasions, public ceremonial, and in con 
courses of the people. 

Dramatic Works 


VAUGHAN WILLIAMS'S works for the stage are eight, or, if the 
television screen is a stage, nine, five operatic and four choreo 
graphic. The five operas are sharply distinct in character and cate 
gory. Hugh the Drover calls itself a romantic ballad opera, though 
containing no spoken dialogue. The Poisoned Kiss calls itself a 
romantic extravaganza and uses spoken dialogue in the manner of 
French opera comique or English ballad opera as the classification is 
normally understood. Sir John in Love is not comic, but comedy, 
opera. Riders to the Sea is music-drama, as Wagner defined the 
term. The Pilgrims Progress calls itself a morality and uses con 
tinuous music in the manner of music-drama though without the 
conscious manipulation of leitmotive. 

Vaughan Williams evades the word 'ballet' in connexion with 
his scores composed for dancing. Job is a masque, so is The Bridal 
Day, of which the scenario is founded on Spenser's Epithalamion, 
a work composed for and first produced on the television screen 
in 1953. A Christmas Carol or On Christmas Night is musically 
defined as a quodlibet on Christmas tunes. Only on the score of 
Old King Cole does the word 'ballet' appear unashamed: it is even 
a 'ballet for orchestra*. In all the choreographic works the type of 
dancing envisaged for them is conceived in terms of folk-dance 
steps, not of the classical ballet, of the flat-heeled slipper, not the 
blocked toe, with hints from morris and country dancing in the 
composition of the figures and the enchainements. 

Old King Cole 

The ballet Old King Cole, like the overture to The Wasps, was a 
product of the composer's Cambridge affiliations. The Cambridge 
Branch of the English Folk Dance Society had had its taste whetted 


for folk-ballet-dancing by participation in Cyril Rootham's opera 
The Two Sisters. The President of the Branch was Dr. Vaughan 
Williams of Trinity, who was ready to provide a score for an 
independent ballet. The scenario was provided by Mr.Vulliamy 
who stiffened the nursery rhyme with a dash of history: King 
Cole of Colchester had a daughter Helena, who married the 
Emperor Constantine and became the mother of Constantine the 
Great. In the story of the ballet she is supposed to have returned 
home on a visit bringing as a present for her father a wonderful 
new pipe for him to smoke. The hookah is made to work with 
appropriate choreographic ritual but soon breaks down, so that 
the king is driven for consolation to his familiar bowl. The fiddlers 
three come into the story because the Empress Helena was musical 
and consents to award a prize to the best of them. Like other 
virtuosi they have different temperaments: the first is a gipsy, the 
second a dreamer, and the third a comfortable extravert who can 
set feet dancing. King Cole, like King James n, likes foot-wagging 
music and awards the prize without consulting his daughter, who 
would like to console the dreamer. She throws him a rose as the 
general company files into the banqueting hall but he goes on 
with his dreaming and his playing. 

The music begins with the tune of Old King Cole harmonized 
with those consecutive fifths in the bass, which had by this time 
become something of a mannerism. Most of the pas (Faction is set 
to good square measures in common time or jigs in 6/8. The tune 
for the lighting and smoking of the pipe is not particularly 


f\ A 

IJ J ! J'JT^ J L 

J3 cantabtle 

When the fiddlers come on they play three folk-tunes. The first 
fiddler accompanies some wild men dancing a jig to the morris 
dance tune 'Go and enlist for a sailor'. The more romantic 


second fiddler pkys 'Bold Young Farmer' (not the well-known 
East Anglian tune of Dr. Vaughan Williams's published collection 
but one from his manuscript collection). The vigorous third 
fiddler plays 'The Jolly Thresherman' and draws also on *The 
Fisher Laddie' and 'The Oyster Girl'. One other tune which is 
given to a unison chorus to sing without words is worth quoting, 
as it reproduces a change of rhythm found in some folk-dances 
and bears a superficial resemblance in structure to the Chorale 
St. Antonii in Brahms's Haydn Variations with its alternation of 
five-bar and four-bar phrases: 

Ex, 2. 

ft tf 

*> -Ff marcaln 

r ir ri'jjni n nr 

The ballet was originally performed on 5 and 7 June 1923, in 
Neville's Court at Trinity College, Cambridge. It has once or 
twice been revived since but neither it nor its music, apt though 
it is for its happy-go-lucky, open-air purpose, is of great import 
ance in the composer's output. 

On Christmas Night 

Nor indeed is the other folk-dance ballet On Christmas Night, 
which is musically described as a quodlibet on Christinas tunes, 
except to show how a symphonic texture can be made out of folk- 
tunes. The recalcitrance of folk-song to symphonic development 
soon became apparent when composers of the various nationalist 
schools of Europe strove to incorporate traditional tunes into 
symphonic composition. They often called such compositions 
rhapsodies when their unsymphonic character was too palpable to 
justify the tide of symphony for them, and Constant Lambert's 
famous aphorism was an extreme summary of the incompatibility 


of folk-melody with symphony. But by a looser counterpoint, 
based in the last resort on madrigal technique, in which the tunes 
are strung together like a daisy chain, with an overkp or a bit of 
invertible counterpoint or a blunt juxtaposition or mere emotional 
congruity to bind them, coherent rhapsodies, in the old Greek 
sense of songs stitched together, can be made. The Bach family, 
we are told, was fond of the practice of this kind of free-for-all 
counterpoint, which is aptly called in decent Latin quodlibet 
what you like. 

In 1912 Vaughan Williams produced a Fantasia on Christmas 
Carols. In 1921 he wrote a second Christmas fantasia which was 
produced at Cecil Sharp House on 29 December 1935 as a folk- 
dance ballet with the tide, On Christmas Night, borrowed from 
Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Its intervening history is as follows: 
Adolf Bolm, one of the original dancers of Diaghilev's company, 
prepared a scenario for which Dr. Vaughan Williams wrote the 
music. Bolm took it off to America and indeed produced On 
Christmas Night in Chicago shortly after. The music was heard in 
London once at a concert of the New English Music Club con 
ducted by Mr. Anthony Bernard at the Park Lane Hotel on 
17 December 1929. The composer then put the score by in a 
drawer, where it remained for some years until for his publishers 
he cleared out the buried treasure from the drawer. Thence the 
score passed to Mr. Douglas Kennedy of the English Folk Dance 
and Song Society for him to consider the possibility of recreating 
a ballet for it. The new choreography was largely his work but 
the production of the ballet on the open floor of Cecil Sharp 
House fell to Mr. Frederick Wilkinson, who had done much in 
the way of producing music-drama in Liverpool. Mr. Wilkinson 
turned the disability of working without curtains or a stage to 
positive advantage by an ingenious use of the minstrels' gallery 
and of vistas through open doors; he thereby enhanced the 
visionary character of the ballet, whose theme is Scrooge's dream 
of what might have been, and made it chime in with the music 
which is a reverie started by a snatch of *The First No well'. Miss 
Imogen Hoist conducted this first performance of the ballet in 


The ballet falls into four scenes though the music is continuous; 
the episodes are the components of a dream. The scenario is as 

The miser Scrooge dreams that he is taken to revisit the scenes of his 
youth. In the first stage of his conversion he sees a Christinas Eve Party 
at the Fezziwig's house where he was an apprentice. The guests go home 
before midnight. The watchman goes his rounds. The Wise Men and 
Shepherds pass through the night on their way to Bethlehem, Scrooge 
sees a children's party in the home of the woman he might have mar 
ried. His conversion completed, the story ends with a vision of the 

The short Prelude dwells for a moment on a characteristic 
phrase unmistakably suggestive of c The First NowelT. 


ft *T 

This is a motto theme embodying the spirit of Christmas and 
reappearing at intervals throughout the work. It is followed by 
voices offstage singing 'God rest you merry* (pkyed by the violas 
when the work is given in concert form). 

Scene I introduces the characters of Scrooge's dream. A solo 
bassoon plays the country dance tune 'Tink a Tink', which is not 
in Playford's The Danting Master but was collected by Cecil Sharp 
from traditional dancers. 


While this is pkyed with increasing orchestration the characters 
pass across the stage: they include the Three Wise Men on their 
way to Bethlehem to the music of the Prelude which is repeated 
(Ex. i), and Scrooge watches the whole procession, trying to 
attach himself to it and so to take part in the vivid reality of his 

Across the slowly fading notes of 'The Hrst NowelT breaks the 
country dance tune 'Haste to the Wedding' in quick time, again 


on. the bassoon. This is the sign for Fezziwig's party, which 
occupies Scene II, to begin. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast 
substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming 
and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts 
they broke.' Mr. Fezziwig salutes his guests to the stately tune 
'Jamaica', which is not harmonized but set against flowing two- 
part counterpoint. 

'Putney Ferry' is the first dance in which the Misses Fezziwig 
and their six suitors take part. A ping on the triangle announces a 
change: the 'boy from over the way' dances a solo Morris Jig to 
an amalgam of the tunes used by folk-dancers for 'Bacca Pipes', 
which are all variants of 'Greensleeves'. When this is done the 
fiddler re-tunes his instrument 'like fifty stomach-aches', Dickens 
says. The next dance is 'The Triumph'. 

'But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and 
Boiled, when the fiddler struck up "Sir Roger de Coverley". Then 
old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple 
too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four 
and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled 
with; people who would dance and had no notion of walking/ 
At last however the clock strikes twelve and brings 'Sir Roger* 
to an end. The Christmas motive of the Prelude, which recurs like 
a rondo theme, is heard again to recall the more tender feelings 
associated with Christmastide. A baritone voice is heard singing 
the Watchman's song as he goes his rounds, and the carol 'God 
rest you merry' appears once more in the orchestra against the 
suggestion of bells derived from the phrase in 'The First NoweJT 
(Ex. i). 

The third scene is all carols, while the Kings of the East and the 
vigilant Shepherds pass to Bethlehem. The music consists of con 
trapuntal interlacing of two tunes 'On Christmas Night', which 
the composer used in his other Fantasia on Christmas Carols, and 
'The First NoweH'. Both are played together, the one under the 
other with harmony that fits them both to male? four parts for 
strings, but the wind instruments soon join in and pass from one 
tone to the other as though they were indistinguishable and in 
separable. There is a little coda in which the following little tune 



is played three times, first by clarinet, then by horn, and finally by 



This is one of the less familiar tunes to the 'Cherry Tree Carol' 
(c Oxford Book of Carols, No. 66, third tune). 

Scene IV opens with a vision of a girl playing a piano. The 
orchestra is silent and what she plays is this version of the best of 
all English love-songs, 'The Seeds of Love*. 

Ex. 4. & n antK s/jsrenuzo 


In concert performance this reverie is transferred to the harp, and 
in dither case the strings soon surround it with an aura of golden 
sound. The girl is the one whom Scrooge might have married. In 
Dickens the Ghost of Christmas Past first recalls the dialogue in 
which this dowerless girl releases Scrooge from his engagement to 
marry her and thai, going on a few years, shows her as the mother 
of a boisterous family in the centre of a children's party. 'The 
Seeds of Love' is the musical and stage equivalent of that dialogue; 
the party is announced by the outbreak on full orchestra of 'The 
Queen's Birthday', which is, like 'Jamaica' and 'Putney Ferry', a 
Playford tune (though there is a reference to 'Putney Ferry* in a 
poem published a century before Playford's rime). 

'Hunsdon House' and 'Black Nag' optionally carry on the party. 
No provision is made in the score for 'Black Nag', which the com 
poser directs to be played by a solo violin. 'Hunsdon House', how 
ever, is set for solo by flute and oboe in alternation, against a 
counterpoint in quaver motion from a solo viola, over a bass by 
a solo violoncello, with the harp doubling this accompaniment. 
'The Queen's Birthday' is resumed only to bring the revelry to an 
end. There is a pause and a string quartet sends the children to bed 


with the 'White Paternoster' 'Matthew, Mark and Luke and 
John, Bless the bed that I lie on' transformed into A major from 
the better known version in the Phrygian mode which Baring- 
Gould published in Songs of the West. 

Ex. 5. Molto adagio 

r J 

* The Evening Prayer' is followed by the motto theme Ex. I, with 
voices singing a verse of 'The First NowelT complete. And now 
that the whole tune has been given the orchestra seizes upon it and 
combines it with itself in canon, with 'On Christmas Night* and 
with 'The Cherry Tree* (Ex, 3). And as before the tunes run into 
each other on the same instrument. There is a passage, for instance, 
about sixteen bars long in which the following dispositions may 
be discovered: the flute is playing 'On Christmas Night' but eight 
bars later is found to have taken over 'The First NowelT. 'The 
First NoweU' on its part goes on like a ground bass (lower strings 
and bassoon) underneath 'The Cherry Tree', which clarinet, 
trumpet, and second violin keep to the fore. The first violin 
meantime is even more fickle than the flute: it holds a dominant 
pedal for a few bars, then tries a snatch of 'The Cherry Tree' and 
finally joins the flute in 'The First NowelT. This favoured and 
favourite tune has the last word since the whole orchestra, harp, 
trombone, and all, together with bells and voices ofistage, take it 
up as a hymn to the Nativity, which is shown in tableau on the 
stage. Scrooge's conversion is complete, for this scenario does not 
require him to be pursued by two more ghosdy visitants as 
Dickens's story does, and the music dies away on the motto 
(Ex. i). _ 

Quodlibet seems to be the right formal description for this way 
of treating tunes that are by nature recalcitrant to symphonic 
development but which are nevertheless capable of providing 
symphonic texture if treated with a proper understanding of their 


Hugh the Drover 

Vaughan Willkms's first opera belongs to the period dominated 
by the Sea and London Symphonies. For it was begun in 191 1 and 
its composition appears to have been largely concurrent with the 
London Symphony and to have been completed by 1914, although 
it did not achieve performance until 1924. Its theme is the life of 
freedom and the open air which had attracted the composer in his 
early settings of R. L. Stevenson ( 4 The Roadside Fire', for in 
stance) and Walt Whitman (in the Finale of the Sea Symphony, 
for instance). Its musical features belong to the early manner with 
the copious flow of tunes (as in the London Symphony), the 
quotation and near-quotation of folk-songs and the use of parallel 
harmonies. An episode which he added for the special perform 
ance to celebrate the jubilee of the Royal College of Music in 1933 
shows, for all the attempt to match the rest in simplicity and 
forthrightness, that the first period ended with the war and gave 
place to new developments in the second period which began 
with the Pastoral Symphony of 1922. 

Hugh the Drover, or Love in the Stocks is described as a romantic 
ballad opera in two acts. It is not a ballad opera in the technical 
sense of containing spoken dialogue like opera comique or Singspiel, 
which are French and German equivalents of English ballad opera. 
Its texture, though spare, is continuously symphonic and there are 
even a number of recurring leitmotivs of the Wagnerian kind. 
But there are many sel<:ontained songs, for which the term 'ballad' 
is not wholly inappropriate. The word 'romantic* is an important 
qualification, for most English ballad operas, at any rate until one 
comes to Edward German's Merrie England, though they may deal 
with the course of true love running rough or smooth, have a drier 
tang, often satirical, as in the first of them, The Beggars Opera, 
and in the corpus of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. The libretto by 
Harold Child makes no attempt at character study; it is concerned 
with situations illuminated by music; the characters are recogniz 
able types but are not individualized, and on the whole they are, 


though not allegorical, embodiments of typically English points 
of view. The text of the simple plot is written in good, easy plain 
English that readily drops into rhymed verse. If the sentiment 
suddenly becomes inflated, as when the rustic lovers conceive of 
themselves as kings and queens, this is only an exercise of the 
licence allowed by ballad opera when it drops the plain speech of 
dialogue for the sing?ng of lyrics. The story is very simple and, it 
must be confessed, sentimental, as the simpler kinds of romance 
often are. The second act contains a few awkward dramatic corners 
to negotiate, though the release from the stocks has been simplified 
from the first version of the plot, in which Hugh was released by 
Mary but had to get back in again they now both hide together 
behind the stocks. The opera has indeed had considerable revision 
since its first performance on 7 July 1924, in the theatre of the 
Royal College of Music. The love duet that took pkce in the 
stocks has been removed to the end where it takes the place of a 
harangue from Hugh on magnanimity and the open air which has 
now virtually disappeared. The extra scene composed for the 1933 
revival was interpolated before the beginning of the second act. It 
was welcomed as an improvement at the time, but it has been dis 
carded in subsequent productions at Sadler's Wells Theatre and is 
marked in the vocal score with an asterisk denoting that its 
inclusion is optional. 

The original performances in the Parry Theatre at the Royal 
College of Music were conducted by S. P. Waddington one 
of them was attended by Queen Mary. Almost immediately it 
went into the repertory of the British National Opera Company 
which performed it a week later in public at His Majesty's Theatre 
under Malcolm Sargent and thence it was taken on tour. It is a 
little short for a normal evening's theatrical entertainment and is 
sometimes provided with a curtain-raiser, when something suitable 
can be found. The librettist, Harold Child, had for a year or two 
been on the stage, for eight years been dramatic critic of The 
Observer and for twenty-five years a leader writer on the staff of 
The Times. He was the author of many of the fourth leaders in 
that journal and of many essays, mostly on literary subjects, in Tlie 
Times Literary Supplement. Bruce Richmond was instrumental in 


bringing librettist and composer together; their collaboration was 
sealed by the joint dedication of the opera to Hugh Allen hence 
its first performance at the Royal College of Music. 

The scene of the opera is placed in the Cotswolds author and 
composer were both Gloucestershire born in the time of the 
Napoleonic war. 'About 1812*, say the stage directions, and then, 
with more particularity, 'Monday, April 30 and Tuesday, May I* 
for the time of the action. The small Cotswold town it might be 
Northleach or Stow on the Wold is subject to the scares of war 
time including spy-mania. 

Hugh (Tefwr) is a drover engaged in collecting horses for the 
British army in the French wars. The author's own synopsis of 
the story is as follows: 

At a country fair, Mary, daughter of the Constable of the Town, and 
betrothed by him to a brutal young Butcher, meets an interesting 
stranger, who quietly derides her dutiful resolution to sacrifice her heart 
to her father's will. This stranger is a Drover, engaged in collating 
horses for the English army in the French wars. Mary and he fall in love 
wich each other at sight, and the Butcher's only solution of the difficulty 
being to kill his rival, a fight is arranged, with the girl as the prize. In 
spite of the Butcher's foul fighting the Drover wins, whereupon the 
Constable and the Butcher plot a mean revenge by declaring the Drover 
to be a spy in the pay of Bonaparte. 

The hour before dawn on the following morning sees the Drover in 
the stocks, awaiting the arrival of soldiers, who have been sent for, to 
take him. Mary, having stolen the keys of the stocks, slips out of her 
father's house and sets her lover free; but all their efforts to escape 
together are frustrated. In desperation, Mary hits on a bold device. 
Bidding the Drover get back into the stocks, she imprisons herself 
beside him, and is thus discovered by the awakened townsfolk, her feet 
in the stocks, her body clasped in the arms of a vagabond and a spy. 
Her disgrace is complete. Her father disowns her; the Butcher insults 
her grossly. So far as her duty goes she is, therefore, free. But now the 
bugles are heard; the soldiers have come. Hie Butcher confidently 
expects a triumph over his foe. It is the Drover who triumphs. The 
soldiers know him well for a gallant true-blue Briton; their Sergeant 
owes him his very life. He is instantly set free, and the Sergeant, angry 
at having been robbed of a night's rest for nothing, secures a sturdy 


recruit by the simple process of marching the Butcher away with him. 
Nothing remains but for the Drover, having roundly told the Con 
stable and others what he thinks of them, to ride off with his bride. 

The situations in this story round which music can crystallize, 
music which will proclaim in every note, the composer being who 
he is, the heart-beat of England, are therefore the fair, the boxing 
match, love in the stocks, the bringing in of the May, Mary's 
stratagem which is the most artificial, the most conventional and 
theatrical part of the piece, the 'pressing' of the Butcher, and the 
duet of love and the open road. 

There is a brief prelude 'allegro vivacissimo* in a bustling 2/4 
time and the curtain goes up on a fair on the outskirts of the town 
with a cheap-jack's voice as the first to be heard. The chorus take 
him up, for this is a folk-opera and the chorus is an active dramatis 
persona. Then come in the itinerant vendors hawking their wares 
to traditional street cries. These are cockles 


' i. ^^5=^. ' t-^^^ j 

catch 'em a - live, catch 'em a - live, catch 'em a - 

-live! Fine fresh coc-kles Fine fresh coc-kks 

toy lambs 


/Young lambs K> sell, ymmg kmbs to sdi, young lambs to sell, yocng 

lambs 10 sell. If I'd as much mo - ney as I could tell, I 


would- n't come here, young lambs to sell. 

and primroses 
EX, a 

TOol buy my sweet prim - ro - ses, all a-biow-ing s a. grow - ing 


Showman, trumpeter, drummer and juggler and dancing-girl 
enter and move through the crowd, which keeps on the move by 
means of a steady movement in the bass, quite in the manner of 
The Bartered Bride. The Showman gets the first real song, very 
much in the ballad manner. This should be quoted as an example 
of Vaughan Williams's ability to write a tune that might be, but 
is not, a folk-tune, and also as an example of organic melody 
without formal repetitions of phrase to make a pattern, like 'The 
Seeds of Love', in which each phrase generates its successor, and 
produces a completely satisfactory feeling of unity. 


* Pisduto 

Cold Wows the wind CM 

i Cot - sail 

r J j 

in win - ter, si 

xw and stcnn, But the 

f* JL 

r " J U T r i 

heart erf Brig-land's in OK - sail, and the bean of Eng- land's warm. O 

* ^ F f ''IT' IT r r r ' i F * j 

I IJ If ' <> 

gen - tk are the men of Cot - sail aad were since the world be 


- gan. But ncme will fight for Eng - land's right like a true - bred Cw - saS 
poco rolL 

man, brave boj^s, like a true-la^d Cot - saH man. 

The second verse, for this is a strophic song, drops a hint about 
Boney, which the crowd takes up in a four-part version of the last 
bars of the tune followed by the music of the overture as they 
move round the fair in an ensemble of pedlars and townsmen. The 
next event is the arrival of the ballad seEer, of the tribe of Auto- 
lycus, who offers broadside ballads, pretty ballads, ballads gay and 
ballads sorrowful, love-songs and songs of death. Among them is 
discovered 'The murder of Maria Marten all on the red barn floor' 
and the orchestra murmurs a bar or two of the appropriate tune, 
namely *Dives and Lazarus', to which that ballad was sung (see 
p. 234). We must not mind the anachronism Maria Marten's 
murder took place on 18 May 1824, However, the Ballad Singer 


chooses the love-song 'Tuesday Morning*, which Vaughan 
Williams took from Sharp's collection: 

o mxkrato 

As I was a - walk - ing one morn- ing in spring To hear ihc birds 

whis - tie and the night - in -gales sing I heard a young dam - sel so 


sweet- ly did sing *Oh I'm to be mar-ried on a Tues - day morn - ing.* 

During the singing Mary (Soprano] enters and both looks at 
and listens to the song. It is too much for her and she bursts into 
tears, for its marriage refrain touches her closely. Aunt Jane 
(Contralto) and the Constable (Bass) now appear on the scene, 
followed in turn by John the Butcher (Baritone) , who has a trucu 
lent song in which to show his character, but he melts a little 
(into triplets and a counter-tune in G flat major, which is after all 
a good deal from him) as he invites his fiancee to parade the fair 
with him. But Mary declines and there is some bickering, with the 
crowd interfering until the Constable comes forward again. With 
V>im is usually associated the motive 


The agitation is interrupted by the arrival of the morris dance team 
to pipe and tabor accompaniment. Their tune is the Processional 

As the chorus takes up the tune a counterpoint of a jig in 6/8 is put 
against it. 

The chorus goes off, marking the end of what is virtually the 
first scene and leaving Aunt Jane and Mary alone. To Mary's 



confession of fear about marrying John Aunt Jane rejoins with a 
little song about the sorrows of being a lonely old maid, of which 
the recurrent motif is 


Mary retorts that she would rather be alone than marry the 
Butcher but says she will go through with it and do her duty. Her 
last words are heard by Hugh who has strolled into the square and 
is mending his whip. He takes her up on them: 

P Hey -day, 

Sbewill o-bey 

She knows ber dn-ij She will o - 

There is a challenge in them and Aunt Jane is quick to rebuke 
his impertinence. Unabashed he continues the provocation in a 
song comparing Mary to a caged linnet. It is this succession of 
strophic songs in regular metre that provides some warrant for the 
designation 'ballad* opera. The opening strain gives a fair idea of 
what the song is like: 

Ex. 10. 

r > _ 

P Sweet Bt-tk lia-aeJ thai kegs to be free 

and there is an interlude of bird song between the verses. The 
contact of youth and maid has been accomplished. Hugh makes 
himself known in a ballad of the open road: 

E*X. 11. 



ffn > II 

Horse bw 




un-<kr down the 


al - k 



&g H3 




This drumming rhythm is indicative not only of horse-beats, but 
of the road, as in the song 'The Roadside Fire', and of the general 
air of the Cotswolds, for it pervades the prelude and the move 
ments of the crowd. 

This is the most extended set-piece in the opera. It completely 
captures Mary, who yields in an arioso, hesitant yet confident in 
its alternation of 6/8 and 3/4 time. Their new life together is 
proclaimed less in what they sing to each other at the moment 
of their recognition of their fate, in spite of the high notes, she 
on a B flat, he on an A flat, than in the orchestral passage 
which follows, based on the theme which is to recur at the end 
of the opera: 

The next scene, though not designated as such, is introduced by 
the Constable's reappearance, accompanied by Ex. 6. He asks 
Hugh what all this nonsense is about but has no time for an answer 
before the Showman proposes a prize-fight as part of the fun of 
the fair. This is Hugh's chance: he will fight John not for the 
twenty-pound prize but for his bride. The prospect of a fight is 
musically depicted by means of a moto perpetuo from the strings 

running along over pounding chords, one-two-three without a 
dotted note or anything but crotchets on the horizon for the 
duration of the round, together with ejaculations from the chorus, 
which work up die excitement of anticipation. There are how 
ever yet to come before the fight itself the formalities which are 
handled by the Showman in a ballad of Bonyparty this is his 
second song of this rousing kind that he has had already, and the 
sixth set strophic song of the opera so far. 



Ex. 14. 
6. f 




the dev-il and Bo - ny - par - ty were drink - ing once so 

heart - y, when there came a Cots -wold man And up - set their lit - tk 


plan. By join - ing that gay par 


Hugh raises the stakes from twenty pounds to Mary's hand 
her heart is his already and a big ensemble, in which the divided 
sympathies of the crowd, Mary's reluctance, the Constable's out 
raged pride, Aunt Jane's sententiousness, create a hubbub domin 
ated by a great swinging melody, a variant of Ex. 12, 

which is repeated and extended over swinging arpeggios. 
The fight is conducted in a combination of rhythms: 


j. J 

. h J JL 


1 i J. 



with the chorus making integections and the woodwind sub 
sequently playing another rhythm: 


J- 3 

When Hugh gives John, who has been fighting foul, the knock 
out blow, the chorus breaks into a song that is hard to distinguish 
from a Northumbrian pipe tune, especially as it is harmonized so 


as to suggest the small pipe scale. The tune belongs to the family 
of'The Keel Row': 

Ex. IS, 

Afp ]l -jj- 

" <* 

the cock has had his comb cut, his comb cut, his comb cut, the 

-T-1 j . i 



cock has had his comb cut, he'll rule the roost no more. 

However, the rejoicing is cut short by John's counter-move of 
calling Hugh a French spy, alleging the ample stake money as 
evidence. The Constable (Ex. 6) becomes important and the 
Showman leads the basses in a repeat of the Bonyparty ballad 
(Ex. 14). The fickle crowd cries 'Spy, spy, spy!' and Hugh is 
arrested. The curtain comes down to the same music that accom 
panied its going up the bustle of the little town. 

The additional scene, which the composer added in 1933, per 
mits a filling out of the character of John in three songs, and some 
dialogue, a touch or two more of ridicule of the Constable, 
another song for Aunt Jane and a deepening of the lovers' passion 
in a song divided between Hugh and Mary. There is dramatically 
a certain amount of feint and plotting on the part of Mary and her 
Aunt. The texture, weight, and tempo of the music is consistent 
with what was written twenty years before, but the idiom has 
changed and we hear something that might have come out of The 
Poisoned Kiss and the Serenade to Music. Its inclusion lengthens the 
opera to a more useful theatrical duration; formally it serves to 
provide an intermezzo between the two main structural blocks of 
the opera, but dramatically it holds up, inevitably, the develop 
ment of the action. 

The scene is the market place of the town in the afternoon 
following the events of the morning of the first act. We see the 
Constable's house, an inn, the Turnkey's house, the town pump, 
and the stocks. Enter to a trudging 'alia marcia* prelude John, the 
prisoner and an escort; the key is a bleak D minor and there are 
more bare fifths than in Act I. To these clop-clop strains John 
sings a short stanza in three-bar phrases: 






Wca - ry leg and hea - vy booi Tramp tramp tramp 

but he then rather unexpectedly develops a vein of irony in 
D major and four-bar phrases thus: 


Ex - cd - lent straa - get. 

our il - lus - trkais guest 

He warms to his sarcasm in a quicker measure (still in D major) 
and Hugh is clapped into the stocks. The Constable enters but is 
beginning to have doubts about the legality of what is going on 
and to wonder what evidence he can tender to the military 
authorities who have been summoned from Gloucester. His music 
is confused with intrusive intervals of the second, at first major, 
then chromatically minor, descending in sequences of waning 
resolution. Ex. 21 is not first-period Vaughan Williams but it 
shows the Constable's frame of mind: 

The crunches turn from crotchets into quavers as his doubts nag 
him more and more. John however will have none of them and 
declares that the money found on Hugh is enough in itself to con 
vict him. While the Constable and John argue Mary approaches 
with a stratagem she will buy die stranger's release by renounc 
ing her love for bjm. and will at once be a good obedient girl. She 
steels herself to pky a part by musing tenderly in the key of seven 
flats, but in addressing her father she uses a simpler key more suited 
to his intelligence, G major. The orchestra however betrays her 
real frame of mind, which John is not slow to detect, in love music 
that might have come from The Poisoned Kiss: 

Ex. 22. AlkgreUQ soslmafe 


Mary's denial of her love naturally distresses Hugh and the argu 
ment goes on in solos in turn all round, duet, trio, and choral 
ensemble. But John is adamant; the plot has failed. Then comes a 
song divided between Hugh and Mary of considerable pathos, 
indeed though one cannot say it is out of scale or style, this passage 
with its throbbing accompaniment (which harks back to 'Silent 
Noon*) could sustain the weight of a more heroic action in a 
grander opera. 

Ex. 23. KT 

Not too fast 


Mary is hesitant in C minor and much shifting of tonality, Hugh 
constant and confident in a firm C major. They bid farewell to 
each other; the market place empties leaving Hugh in the stocks; 
and the orchestra continues to portray what is going on in his 
mind: there is a passionate strain of melody before the fell of the 
curtain and after it a recurrence of Ex. 23, followed by Ex. 22. 
Then comes the sound of the May-day carol, for we have been 
carried forward by these orchestral musings far into the night. 
The Maying Song is heard on the bassoon, as yet incomplete, 


This version comes from Fowlmere near Cambridge and was 
collected in 1898. 

The music now runs on into the original second act, now called 
Act n, Scene 2. The scene is the same in the market square but 
the time is very early morning before it is light. The windows of 
the inn however still show lights, and sounds of laughter and 
singing every now and again emerge to show that the men of the 
town after the excitements of the day are making a night of it. The 
church clock chimes the Psalm tune * York' and strikes four. The 
tune *York* 


B < 







. , 1 

.']> \ i 


i ' 1 i-.^ 


was used by Ravenscroft for Psalms xxvii and Ixvi in his The Whole 
Booke ofPsahnes, which he published in 1621. He had taken it from 
a Scottish Psalter of 1615, where the tune is called *The Stilt'. No 
one has ever fathomed how hymn-tunes and dance-tunes get their 
names. The little Cotswold town was fortunate to possess a chime 
containing both a flat and a sharp A in a peal of seven bells! 

The Ballad Singer, for all the world like Wagner's Nuremburg 
Watchman with lantern and horn, comes on as knocker-up, for it 
is May morning and by custom 'the May', emblem of summer, 
must be brought in. (It is quoted on p. 198.) The early budding 
boughs of birch and larch were stuck into the ground by the 
young men at the doors of their sweethearts' houses, or gar 
lands were hung above every door in the street, thus converting 
it by either method into an avenue of fresh greenery. The horn- 
call was part of the ritual and we hear it in the opera. Hugh is in 
reflective mood; John is trolling a crude drinking song: 

For drink is my life and be damned to my wife. 
If she'll stop me from filling my belly with beer. 

This is not a folk-rhyme nor a folk-tune, but the tune is of folk 

Ex, 26. 

all the 

No trou - bk can touch me, no 

wo - men are dear. 

For drink is my life sad be 


The last phrase is what we hear first at that pitch, but though the 
harmony takes it into C major when the roisterers tumble into 
the street singing it, we should have to transpose it down into B 


flat to get the notes of the song right as the statement of a quasi- 
traditional tune. 

The revellers stumble against the stocks, where Hugh is found 
covered by his cloak, and taunt and strike him. But when they have 
reeled off Mary appears with the Constable's keys and lets Hugh 
out. The emotions of this turn of affairs are expressed in something 
quite new of which Ex. 27 shows the soaring melody doubled at 
the octave on a solo violin, and the figuration, but not the harmony: 

Ex.27. Moderate 


The voice parts accord well enough with the key signature, but 
die accompaniment to all this duet shows in a singularly concise 
form what Vaughan "Williams's harmony is like. The bass moves 
in consecutive fifths so that the key is shifted, though not changed 
or modulated, and the bass on which the chords arc built rotates 
round C. Because C is treated as a kind of modal dominant of G 
it is possible to have the chord of F minor, on which this duet 
actually begins and ends, as a constituent chord of the key of G. 
This indeed is a very, very flat seventh, and produces a very 
curious kind of G major tonality. 

When the release is effected Hugh bids Mary fly with hi in a 
broadened form of Ex. 12, the symbol of their union. However, 
Mary sees that while one might escape two could not, and to 
prove her words the sounds of the May-horn are heard, indiraring 
the approach of the mayers from the fields and woods of the 
wolds. John's voice is heard among them singing Ex. 24; the girls 
in the party however have another May carol on their lips: 


f O the fields they are 

Our Lord, oar God, has wa-tered them with hea"ven-ly dew so sweet - 


THs version, though not with precisely these words, was collected 
by Lucy Broadwood at King's Langley in Hertfordshire (see 
English County Songs). The mayers miss Mary and another hue 
and cry begins. Mary's plan is bold and subtler than flight; it is to 
compromise herself by being found in Hugh's arms under his 
cloak in hiding behind the stocks. The stratagem succeeds: the 
Constable (having by now missed his keys) denounces her and 
tells John he can have her if he like without dowry, an offer which 
John declines, rather to the disgust of the crowd. "When Mary is 
discovered unashamedly at Hugh's side she has her first big soaring 
song. Her words originally began 'Here on my throne where 
honour holds his place', because she was still sitting beside Hugh 
in the stocks, but since that piece of business was changed the 
words have been altered to 'Here, queen uncrown'd, in this most 
royal place'. The melody begins 


^TT^ * ; !' IT TJ i* ' Lria^rrrf i* *- 

Here, queen un - crown'd in ifais mosi roy al place fit. 

It is too much for the Constable and duly accompanied by Ex. 6 
he disowns his daughter; the rival factions surge to and fro till a 
distant bugle is heard heralding the approach of the troops who 
are to take the spy to Gloucester. The Sergeant recognizes Hugh 
as the old friend who once did him a good turn, which he describes 
in a 'ballad', and shows the spy scare for the ridiculous thing it is. 
As soon as the soldiers have gone, bearing away John as their conr- 
script, the two versions of the opera differ. In the original there was 
a complicated ensemble in which everyone from his particular 
point of view urged upon Hugh and Mary the wisdom of settling 
in the town. This has disappeared in the definitive version, for 
however realistic the plot, the opera has now developed sufficient 
romantic impetus for the action to be simplified. It is true that 
common sense asserts its propensity for operatic incongruity and 
at the very end wishes that author and composer had somehow 
allowed the producer an excuse for giving Mary the chance to 
dress herself for the rigours of Cotswold weather. But they have 
quickened the action by cutting out all but the recitative portion 


of a harangue from Hugh on the moral virtues of the open-air 
life. He formerly had an aria beginning 


. U g J 4 if 

m j j r""i i 

$ 1* *' f ' 

Shut in and 

>H t g 

shel-ter-ed there 

e J 

you are 

j J j 


But in the final version we have instead a love duet which had 
originally been sung in the stocks, beginning 


f\ Agitato 

Lord of my life, un-wor-thy I to bear you com - pa-ny 

This is an extended piece of music which makes a worthy 
climax to the opera and is just as appropriate to the lovers' situa 
tion at the end as in the middle. The opera now ends with every 
one accepting it that the life of the open road is the only one for 
the lovers though in English folk-song it is not the milkmaids 
but the ladies of high degree who go off with the raggle-taggle 
gypsies. After a great outburst of Ex. 12 on the orchestra the 
chorus bids them farewell and the opera ends softly. 

Sir John in Love 

Sir John in Love has several affinities with Hugh the Drover and 
must have been begun soon after the ktter had won its public 
success in 1924. It was produced, like its predecessor, in the little 
theatre at the Royal College of Music; four performances con 
ducted by Malcolm Sargent were given in the week 21-6 March 
1929. It was revived for the Oxford Musical Festival of 1930 
with some of the same cast of R.C.M. students, the rest being 


local Oxonians. It has had many amateur performances but so far 
only one not very satisfactory professional production, at Sadler's 
Wells in 1946. There is prefixed to the score a Preface of such 
importance that it must be quoted in full: 

To write yet another opera about Falstaffat this time of day may 
seem the height of impertinence, for one appears to be entering into 
competition with three great men Shakespeare, Verdi, and Hoist. 

With regard to Shakespeare, my only excuse can be that he is fair 
game, like the Bible, and may be made use of nowadays even for 
advertisements of soap and razors. 

I hope that it may be possible to consider that even Verdi's master 
piece does not exhaust all the possibilities of Shakespeare's genius. 

And I hope I have treated Hoist with the sincerest flattery not only 
in imitating his choice of Falstaff as the subject of an opera but in 
imitating his use of English folk-tunes in the texture of the musk. The 
best I can hope will be that Sir John in Love may be considered as a 
sequel to his brilliant Boar's Head. (I have made no mention of Nicolai's 
Merry Wives because, apart from the delightful overture, his music is 
not known in England.) 

My chief object in Sir John in Love has been to fit this wonderful 
comedy with, I trust, not unpleasant music. In the matter of the use 
of folk-tunes, they only appear occasionally and their titles have no 
dramatic relevancy (except possibly in the case of "John, come kiss me 
now*). When a particular folk-tune appeared to me to be the fitting 
accompaniment to the situation, I have used it. When I could not find 
a suitable folk-tune, I have made shift to make up something of my 
own. I therefore offer no apology for the occasional use of a folk-song 
to enhance a dramatic point. If the result is successful I feel justified; if 
not, no amount of 'originality* will save the situation. However, the 
point is a small one, since out of a total of 120 minutes* music the folk- 
tunes occupy less than 15. 

The text is taken almost entirely from the Merry Wives, with the 
addition of lyrics from Elizabethan poets. A few unimportant remarks 
(e.g., 'Here comes Master Ford*) are my own. 

Two general considerations, not identical but related, are raised 
in this preface: one is nationalism how far is an Englishman 
likely to be more successful in finding a true musical match for an 
English comedy than an Italian? the other is the use of folk-song. 


Verdi's Falstaff is a masterpiece, mellow with a humanity equal 
to Shakespeare's own. In a sense masterpieces cannot be compared, 
yet if two composers write an opera apiece on the same subject 
comparisons are inevitable. Nor need they be odious. Without 
resort to the unavailing and somewhat disreputable method of 
criticism which consists in praising A by a depreciation of B, I 
will go beyond Dr. Vaughan Williams's own statement that per 
haps Verdi's masterpiece does not exhaust all the possibilities of 
Shakespeare's genius only to the extent of saying that perhaps an 
English composer, especially a composer steeped in the music and, 
through the music, the spirit of Shakespeare's own day may give 
us a more authentic English bourgeoisie, a more romantic Windsor 
forest, and a greater homogeneity of subject and treatment. With 
respect I would urge that Nanetta is not quite Sweet Anne Page, 
who would hardly speak in these accents even to the Fenton whom 
she preferred above all her other suitors, 


_Q i 

lips are love's bow - strings 
II k - bro i Par - co 

nor is Anne quite the girl to take the top line in the splendid en 
semble at the end of Verdi's second act. More precocious Italian 
maidens can carry off this sort of thing better than a young 
English girl. (Yet I would abate not a word of the praise that has 
been heaped on Verdi's love-music: 'perhaps', as Mr. Toye says, 
'the only operatic music in which the love of boy and girl is 
adequately interpreted in accordance not only with Latin but with 
Anglo-Saxon ideals'.) 

Then Sir John himself. It is a commonplace of Shakespearian 
criticism that the Falstaff of the Merry Wives is not the Knight of 
the Histories. He is a lesser man, little more than a figure of fun 
with only the indomitable humour of the greater Falstaff left to 
retain for himself our sufficient sympathies. Boito improved 
Falstaff for Verdi with such devices as the famous monologue on 
honour borrowed from Henry IV. Mr. Toye admits that in the 


process he may have become somewhat Latinized, though few 
are aware of any discrepancy between Verdi and Shakespeare 
while listening to Falstaff. Nevertheless, the tune of 'John come 
kiss me now', as treated by Vaughan Williams, hits off the exact 
measure of swagger of Falstaff about to embark on his newest 
conquests in such a way as Verdi's brief march-tune has hardly 
time to do. In fact the chief difference between the two operas is 
probably one of tempo (in the broad sense). Verdi was criticized 
at the time of Falstaff's first production for the sheer speed and 
brilliance of the work even Stanford who admired it greatly 
thought it a little lacking in contrast and repose. The gait of 
Vaughan Williams's Sir John is a little heavier, and the pace of 
the intrigue more in keeping with our soft grey climate than with 
the behaviour of Latin people under the blue Mediterranean sky. 
The patch of Italianism in Falstaff which strikes the ear most 
sharply is at the reading of the letter when Mistress Ford and 
Mistress Page compare notes. But this is a piece of deliberate 
mock-heroic on Verdi's part, an amusing parody of his own 
heroic style. It does, however, for the moment take us away from 
Windsor. Still more does his ending of the opera. Verdi cuts short 
the midnight revels in the forest with a fugue in which the actors, 
as Mr. Bonavia says, 'throw down the mask and come to us no 
longer as comedians but to sing and make merry with us'. *The 
whole conception', says Mr. Toye, *is one of deliberate artificiality 
related more nearly, despite its setting, to the Commedia del' 
Arte than to any dramatic product of Romanticism.' True enough, 
and Shakespeare himself is not above coming forward frankly on 
occasion in an epilogue or making his actors say direct to the 
audience 'Our pky is done'. He does not do so in The Merry 
Wives of Windsor, but ends the pky with Ford alias Brook saying 
to Sir John: 

To Master Brook you yet shall hold your word; 
For he tonight shall lie with Mistress Ford. 

These lines are set by Vaughan Williams, but they are not the end 
of the opera. Falstaff responds to the quip with a good-natured 
acquiescence in the spirit of practical joking and in the vein of 


one of Shakespeare's philosophical jesters comes forward and 
addresses the company and the audience in a song: 

Whether men do laugh or weep 
Whether they do wake or sleep 
Whether they feel heat or cold 
There is underneath the sun 
Nothing in true earnest done. 

which is taken up by the whole company though not in a formal 
fugue, for the illusion of the play is not yet abandoned. And 
though the curtain comes down on the rich, genial yet slightly 
ceremonious theme of this song 


Moderate maestoso 

Strings and Woodwind 

the last thing that happens is a general country dance to Play- 
ford's tune 'Half Hanniink'. We take no formal farewell of the 
pkyers, but see them dancing their way back from the forest to 
the town as the dawn breaks on Windsor, and the lights go up 
in the theatre, with an old English tune running in their heads as 
well as ours. 

To make this comparison is not to disparage Verdi nor to claim 
that Shakespeare's Falstaff is a national figure who can-not go 
abroad. All it says is (with Vaughan Williams) that Verdi does 
not exhaust Shakespeare and that, whatever else he may or may 
not give us, Vaughan Williams's English music is of a piece with 
Shakespeare's comedy and the English life it depicts. Here is what 
Masefield says of The Merry Wives: 1 

It is the only Shakespearean pky which treats exclusively of English 
country society. As a picture of that society it is true and telling. 
Country society alters very little. It is the enduring stem on which the 
cities graft fashions. 

1 Shakespeare, p. 125. Home University Library. 


Vaughan Williams, nourished on the songs and dance tunes of 
English country life, can 'fit this wonderful comedy' with music 
that is not only 'not unpleasant* but belongs to it because it has 
grown out of the same 'enduring stem'. 

And this is the defence, if any be needed, for the presence of 
folk-song in an original work. None surely is needed in the face 
of the successful use of folk-song for dramatic purposes by the 
Russians and most conspicuously by Smetana in The Bartered 
Bride. Furthermore, Dr. Vaughan "Williams has himself a good 
deal to say about originality and its relation to common property 
in his book on National Music (see in particular chapter v) which 
need not be repeated here. By a significant coincidence he uses in 
his definition of folk-song the identical metaphor employed by 
Masefield in the passage quoted above. Masefield speaks of the 
'enduring stem* of English life; Vaughan Williams defines folk 
song as an 'individual flowering on a common stem'. An English 
folk-song is therefore a flower on the common stem of all things 
English. Folk-song grows in small communities, flourishes among 
'country society', and indeed owes its survival in England to the 
peasantry. The use of folk-song to give point to a play about 
country folk is obviously appropriate. That Page and Ford and 
Quickly were not peasants does not spoil the correspondence, for 
though in 1900 folk-song was only found alive among peasants, 
in 1600 things were quite otherwise. The same dances were 
danced on the village green and in the Queen's palace. The same 
tunes were whistled in the street and played in the drawing-rooms 
of the aristocracy. Burghers and merchants sang madrigals made 
for them out of tradesmen's street-calls by composers in the em 
ployment of the nobility. Society before the Industrial Revolution 
was much more homogeneous than it is now, though jazz and 
wireless, films and television are in recent years doing something 
towards levelling out class differences of taste. The evidence for 
the general diffusion of song and dance tunes, which were thus 
'popular' in a fuller sense than any music of the million in vogue 
today, is to be found in letters, in manuscripts, and in publications 
of the time. Thus, the Earl of Worcester in a letter to the Earl of 
Shrewsbury dated 19 September 1602 remarks 'We are frolic 


here at Court; much dancing in the Privy Chamber of Country 
Dances before the Queen's Majesty, who is exceedingly pleased 
therewith', while the tune of Sellengers Round, which may very 
well have been one of the dances, was, like the Carman s Whistle, 
made by Byrd into a set of variations for virginals. This close 
contact between the composer and the everyday life of his time, 
in contrast to the cosmopolitan and courtly traditions of the 
eighteenth century, has always been Vaughan Williams's own 
ideal, not because he does not care for eighteenth-century music 
but because in his own career it became gradually clear to him 
that English musical life had been too long in tutekge to Germans 
and Italians and that if it was to revive it must be emancipated. A 
national music was a necessity to the British composer, and the 
path of freedom was discovered about sixty years ago in our 
native folk-song. Having caught its note, as he himself relates, he 
saw that it led to a closer contact between art and real life and 
provided the composer with a touchstone of artistic sincerity. The 
London Symphony, which is not a folk-song symphony, was the 
outcome of this folk-song method of approaching contemporary 
life. In Sir John in Love the method is reversed in order to serve 
historical truth. The modern music pours forth and enfolds Shake 
speare's comedy, but it leads up to, not away from, folk-song. In 
Shakespeare's day music and life were at one; popular music 
reflected popular life; for every situation there is a song; and so 
the composer can cap his own music with a tune that belongs to 
the people of the pky, to the period of the play, and to the topic 
ality of the pky. 

The topicality of the pky is also enhanced by his inclusion of 
Elizabethan lyrics and songs from other pkys of Shakespeare in his 
libretto. The spirit must be concentrated, and just as the folk-song 
caps the situation so the lyric clinches the emotional tension. 
Farce and music do not march very long or very easily in double 
harness. Boito when he made his libretto for Verdi left out the 
broadest and most dramatically improbable episode in The Merry 
Wives of Windsor Mother Prat, the fat woman of Brainford. So 
does Vaughan Williams, and as if still further to sweeten his opera 
he lengthens its lyrical moments, thus providing contrast to the 


general bustle of the comedy which Stanford found lacking in 
Verdi. Herein perhaps Vaughan Williams profited by the ex 
perience of his predecessor. 

Act I 

The first act unlike the other three is not formally divided by 
the fall of the curtain into scenes. Its music is continuous but its 
eight episodes are each dominated by an appropriate musical 
characterization. There is a certain broad use of leitmotive so that 
cross references can occasionally be made with dramatic effect, but 
it is no Wagnerian system of predetermined identity disks. These 
salient rhythms, phrases or folkish tunes indeed ought not to be 
called leitmotives at all: they are merely prominent motifs which 
seem to epitomize musically the dramatic significance of each 

Thus the seventeen bars of Prelude before the curtain rises are a 
bustling 6/8 rhythm breaking without notice given into 3/4 and 
back again. This restless 6/8 serves to introduce Shallow (Tenor 
or Baritone], the country magistrate, and Evans (High Baritone] , 
the Welsh parson, in a state of turmoil about FalstafTs misdeeds, 
while Slender (Tenor] in a corner essays a sonnet to Anne Page, 
thus presenting the two main themes of the play, ancient villainy 
and young love. When Falstaff (Baritone], entering with Bar- 
dolph, Nym, and Pistol, begins to speak, the brisk 6/8 rhythm 
gives place to a slower and tranquil 3/4 in the folk-song *A 
sailor loved a farmer's daughter*. 6/8, however, is resumed for 
the colloquy of rapscallions, a sextet of abuse 'You Banbury 
cheese*, 'How now, Mephistophilus*, and so on. Pistol, challenged 
by Falstaff with an accusation of having robbed Slender, answers 
'alia marcia' in common time, but again the sextet is resumed and 
completed in 6/8. The 6/8 rhythm is the dominant motif of 
Episode I. 

The folk-song quoted by the orchestra while Falstaff and 
Shallow are wrangling seems in spite of what the composer says 
in his Preface to have been first suggested by the words 'But not 
kissed your keeper's daughter', as though the lilt of the words 
called up a snatch of tune in Falstaff ? s mind. Otherwise, as he says, 


the words have no dramatic relevancy. The tune as quoted in the 
score is a variant of the last part of the tune in Stanford's Songs of 
Old Ireland. Stanford took it from Petrie's collection and it has an 
Irish flavour, though parallel English versions to the words of 
*The Young Servant Man' or 'The Cruel Father 5 are to be found. 
Episode 2 serves to introduce Anne Page (Soprano] and contains 
much lyrical music, beginning with the folk-song 'A Sailor from 
Sea', including a sad reflection from Anne in the style not of a 
folk-song but of an ayre to the lute, and finishing with a love 
duet in which occurs the first hint of the big wedding-song in the 
last act, of which the clue is 


Anne enters carrying wine followed by Mrs. Page (Soprano] 
and Mrs. Ford (Mezzo Soprano]. Slender who has been driven 
back by the exit of the ruffians stumbles against Anne. But 
before he can apologize to Anne or speak to the two wives the 
orchestra has begun to surround the person of Anne with the 
lovely tune harmonized as only Vaughan Williams can harmon 
ize a folk-tune, so that the harmony tears the heart out of it 
yet in adding something to it leaves it more itself than ever: 
'The Sailor from Sea 5 is one of Sharp's tunes from Somerset 
(see Folk Songs for Schools, Novello's Book 268), and there is 
no relevance in its words to the present situation beyond the 
happy love, which Anne is not to find yet but will ultimately. 
This is the leitmotive of Anne's 'pretty virginity 5 and is heard 
again a few pages later when Anne reappears to bid Shallow 
and Evans to come in to dinner. These two gentlemen meantime 
continue to discuss Falstaff's 'disparagements' against an accom 
paniment of the kind of folk-dance tune which Vaughan Williams 
uses throughout this opera for any sort of fussing, coming and 
going, or intrigue: 



The gavotte with which Anne tries to get Slender into the house 
is an extension of the same principle though it is far from bustling 
and is marked 'quasi lento*: 

Ex * 4 " Tempo di Gavotte 

^ ^-* 

Slender takes a good deal of coaxing with his reiterated 'After 
you', but when he finally disappears Anne stays outside and 
laments her unhappy love. A plaintive oboe expresses for her the 
melancholy reflection that a 'world of vile ill-favoured faults' 
(meaning Dr. Caius) 'looks handsome on three hundred pound 
a year'. 

Ex ' 5 ' Lento 



And then she sings 

Weep eyes, break heart, 

My love and I must part; 

Cruel fates true love do soonest sever. 

O I shall see thee never, never. 

O happy is the maid whose life takes end 

Ere it knows parents' frown or loss of friend. 

which comes from a pky of Thomas Middleton (c. 1570-1627), 
The Chaste Maid ofCheapside. 

But she has hardly finished when she hears Falstaff's voice ofif 
stage. Fenton (Tenor) is singing 'Do but look on her eyes', the 
second stanza of Jonson's 'The Triumph' which is to be her 
wedding-song in the last act. 1 Anne joins him and they sing a 
duet, he going on to 'Have you seen but a whyte lily grow' and 
she to 'Come O come my life's delight, Let me not in languor 
pine' borrowed from Campion, Ex. 2 providing the shape both 

1 'Do but look* and 'Have you seen* are sung or said by Wittipol in Jonson's 
pky The Devil is an Ass (1610). 


of Fenton's son and of the accompaniment. After this lyrical 
moment the lovers discuss their unhappy predicament to Ex. 5 
and finally part as Page (Baritone] appears to warn off the young 
man once more. 

After this lyrical episode knockabout begins again: Dr. Caius 
(High Baritone), Mis. Quickly (Mezzo Soprano) , and Rugby march 
in to a quasi-folk-tune: 

Ex, 6. 

Allegretto scherzando 


Dr. Caius invokes Mrs. Quickly's aid in his suit of Anne mainly 
in very lightly accompanied recitative (Ex. 6). Mrs. Quickly to 
cover up die fact that she is playing the same game of go-between 
for more than one party starts singing the ballad 'Robin Hood 
and the Bishop*. Shakespeare merely indicates the refrain 'And 
down adown a', &c. Vaughan Williams puts into her mouth the 
last verse of the ballad to a snatch of the tune collected by H. E. D. 
Hammond in Dorset in 1906 from George Stone, an old post-boy 
who at the age of eighty-nine was living at Wareham. 

A new movement, which begins as a trio but develops into a 
quartet for Mrs. Quickly, Dr. Caius, Simple, and Rugby, is con 
ducted over another scherzo-like tune of folk-dance derivation: 

Ex. 7. 
A Allegro vivace 

JjJ J J J * 

This episode is rounded off on a more lyrical note: Dr. Caius 
forgets his anger and becomes sentimental as he thinks of Anne. 
He begins to sing to her the old French chanson, 'Vrai dieu 
d'amours, comfortez moy*. This finished, with comments in 
descant by Mrs. Quickly and Rugby, the procession moves off to 
Ex. 6. 

The fourth episode is brief and consists solely of Fenton's inter 
view with Mistress Quickly in furtherance of his suit of Anne. 


The music sways ruminarively as Mrs. Quickly considers the 
claims of the three suitors and Ex. 6 is heard faintly rumbling in 
the bass beneath. At this point occurs the optional Episode sub 
sequently composed and published. See below, p. 296. 

The fifth sub-scene is musically 'alia marcia*. Bardolph, Nym, 
and Pistol enter with the spoils of their thieving expedition and 
engage with the Host of the Garter in the singing of the ballad 
from Gammer Gurtons Needle 'Jolly Good Ale and Old' by 
John Still, Bishop of Bath and Wells: 


* Poeo^anmato 

Back and side go bare, go bare, Both foot and hand go cold, 

The rhythm is kept up as the song gives place to dialogue and 
there is a recapitulation of this refrain. All this, however, is but a 
prelude to the entry of Falstaff himself who comes on to announce 
his plot for courting the two Merry Wives. 

The dominant theme of the music is the folk-song ^obn. come 
kiss me now'. Played low down in the gamut (on cello and bass) 
its fat complacency enhances the dramatic point. 'I do mean to 
make love to Ford's wife/ declares Falstaff walking up and down 
preening himself, while the tune implies that he is confident of an 
invitation from the lady in question. The tune is found in the 
FitzwilHam Virginal Book as the subject of a piece by William 
Byrd. It had a great vogue in Shakespeare's day and subsequently, 
though it appears to have been more used as a dance than as a 
song. There is a reference to it in Heywood's A Woman Killed 
with Kindness 

Jack Shine. I come to dance, not to quarrel. Come what shall it be? 


Jenkin. Rogero! no; we will dance The Beginning of the World. 
Cicely. I love no dance so well as John come kiss me now. 

A Woman Killed with Kindness and The Merry Wives of Windsor 
are practically contemporary about 1602. But the tune retained 
its vogue well on into the seventeenth century and is quoted by 


Playford in his Introduction to the Skill of Musick. There is an 
allusion to it in the Westminster Drollery of 1674: 

The fiddler shall attend us 

And first play John come kisse me. 

and another one is a 1687 translation of Don Quixote by J. Phillips. 
The song was parodied by Jacobite enthusiasts into 'James, come 
kiss me now' as an apology for having deserted his cause. Chappell, 
that pioneer in musical antiquarian research, knew all this about 
it in the middle of the nineteenth century, but the tune did not 
regain its popularity until the revival of interest in folk-music and 
Tudor music which began a generation or so ago. The tune is the 
basis for Falstaffs plot, and after being elaborately worked into a 
quintet for the five men (Host, Falstaff, and the three rapscallions) 
it is only broken off by Nym and Pistol suddenly finding con 
scientious scruples to bearing Falstaff 's identical letters to the two 
ladies. Falstaff assumes an air of overwhelming dignity (reiterated 
triplets) as he sends the letter by the page Robin, and walks 
majestically into the inn to the strains of 'John come kiss me' once 

There is a brief episode of three pages' length in the vocal score 
dominated by a dry 6/8 rhythm in which Nym and Pistol plot 
to reveal Falstaff 's adulterous project to Ford, its victim. 

The final episode is ushered in by Ford's jealousy' motif: 


Andante con moto 


Strings and Woodwind 

Pistol and Nym break the news to Ford (Bass) to the develop 
ment of Ex. 9 but soon change over to their former 6/8 rhythm 
into which there slips in the bass the tune of 'When daisies pied', 
the allusion being to the cuckoo, the bird of fear to the cuckold, 
whose nest has been invaded by the alien bird. 



Vaughan Williams's tune to this song, which is interpolated 
from Loves Labour's Lost in order still further to pique the jealous 
Ford, begins thus: 


"^ Allegro vivace 





y u \i ^ I W.^J ^ M [j ^- 1 
/hen dai - sies pied and via"'- lets blue And la - dy smocks all 

-f '^ " J. #-^t " J J 
sil - \-&r while And cue - koo buds of 

yel - low hue. Do 

paint the mea - dows wiih de - light. 

Mrs. Page joins Mrs. Ford in it and meeting Ford's angry looks 
they run off the stage while he is left raging at the word 'cuckold'. 
It is worth noting that between Ex. 9 and the song Ex. 10 a 
favourite device of Vaughan Williams's appears, a triad over a 
'wrong' bass note which produces a grinding dissonance and is 
used by him in most of his works for many expressive purposes, 
here in order to give vent to Ford's choking fury: 

Ex, 11. 

f\ Animato 

But the last thing we hear is the jealousy motif Ex. 9 


The second act is comparatively short and is divided into two 
scenes. There is a page or so of prelude in which a rhythmic 
figure is announced which is to stand throughout for Falstaff's 
love-making. When Mrs. Page begins to read Falstaff's letter it is 
to this figure that Falstaff's words are sung: 



Thine own true knight, 

by day or night 


Her own comments on 'the wicked world' that could contain so 
iniquitous a proposal is couched in triplets which contrast with 
the square pattern of Ex. 12. This compound duple time is also 
mentioned in the prelude. Mrs. Ford next enters and the two 
women compare notes in a duet built out of 



(You are mer-ry,_ so am I) 

which has also been heard in the brief prelude. They hatch their 
plot to ensnare Falstaff to music of increasing animation. They 
quote his 'Thine own true knight 5 and egg each other on till Airs. 
Quickly 's voice is heard off stage singing as she approaches a 
verse of the folk-song 'Lovely Joan'. This is an obscene ballad 
such as Mrs. Quickly might very well have on her lips, and whose 
words are appropriate to the present situation. The tune is one 
collected by Dr. Vaughan Williams himself in Norfolk in 1908 
(see Folk Song Journal, vol. iv, p. 90). There are other versions in 
Sharp's Folk Songs from Somerset, vol. iv, No. 95, and in Folk Song 
Journal, vol. iv, p. 330. Mrs. Quickly also aptly borrows a song 
from another play of Shakespeare and sings a new setting of 'Sigh 
no more, ladies' against a waltz-like accompaniment. It begins as 
a solo 


Sigh no more, la - die&, La - dies sigh no more, Men were de - 

- ceiv ers ev - er 

but it soon becomes a trio, which provides a climax and an end 
to the first scene. An interlude follows, 1 a repetition and expan 
sion, with optional cuts, of the prelude. This entracte gives about 
four minutes in which the stage can change its scene from a room 

1 Or the later Interlude, officially so-called with a capital I, from the sub 
sequently published Prelude, Episode, and Interlude, may be taken here. 


in Page's home to the parlour of the Garter Inn, from which 
steps lead off to FalstafFs bedroom. Falstaff is discovered sitting at 
a writing table. He calls for Bardolph to fetch him some sack. He 
sings to himself a song borrowed from a former jollification his 
visit to the Gloucestershire magistrates in Henry IV \ Part II, v. iii, 
for which Vaughan Williams has provided a melody (unaccom 
panied) in the folk-ballad, four-in-a-bar style. 

Ex. 15. 

A cup of wine that's brisk and fine And drink un - to the k - man mine. 

Another 'original' folk-tune follows immediately through and 
over which Falstaff and Quickly, who has come on her errand 
from the two Wives, conduct their negotiations: 

Ex. 16. Strings 


i jT-i J > 

ifjj J hi 



5 * 

'<bQ' J ' 

* * j ^- 

"v_J * J J^- 


The continuation of this pseudo-folk-tune becomes sufficiently 
informal to lend itself to extension and to avoid formal closure; 
it is resumed from time to time as Quickly inveigles Falstaff into 
accepting a rendezvous with Mrs. Ford between 



Mrs. Quickly then broaches the subject of Mrs. Page in a different 


Andante jnoderaio 
8va "LT J 

Her business finished Mrs. Quickly departs and Falstaff sings 'Go 
thy ways old Jack', a glorified version of 'John come kiss me now*, 
turned into triple time and expanded to reflect the soaring magni 
tude of Falstaff 's new hopes. Sir John now in love sets himself to 
compose a ballad to his mistress's lips. The stage directions read: 


*He begins to compose a love song. Like all amateur composers 
he has the best literary traditions coupled with the worst style in 
music. He sings as he writes in exaggerated "Singer's English" 
("thart" for "that", "blees" for "bliss", "raw-hawses" for "roses", 
etc.)* a piece of satire that is perhaps anachronistic for the 
Elizabethan period which seems as though it could do no wrong 
in music, but it adds to the fun: 

Ex. 19. 

Andante con moto 

i j . j ^n> r j rj i 


i j J U' J J J |J. . 

O that joy so soon should waste ! 

Or so sweet a bhss as a 

j) v j \\A \ > j 

tl 1 

kiss might nr* for MT - er last 

-** + H-S U J: *^ ^ 

so su - garedj so 

o i 


J " J lj J' J' 1*=^ 

^ 1 

melt - ing, so soft so de li - cious 

and a good deal more in the same vein, the words being borrowed 
from Ben Jonson's Cynthia s Revels, a play performed by the 
Children of the Chapel in 1600. 

He is interrupted by Bardolph, who ushers in Master Brook 
alias Ford. Falstaff continues to polish his song and Brook to 
swear he 'will catch the lecher,' in counterpoint which sharpens 
their cross purposes. However, they soon get to business 




Strings prez. 

a motif which recurs whenever the two men assume formal 
relations when Falstaff accepts Ford's money for instance. But 
Brook alias Ford makes his proposal that Falstaff shall seduce his 
wife in a more insinuating measure: 


Andante con moto 



Falstaff remembers his appointment for 'ten and eleven* (Ex. 17 
inverted) and goes off to dress humming more of his song, 

The dew that lies on roses 
When the morn herself discloses 
Is not so precious, &c. 

leaving Ford beside himself with rage (Ex, 21 transmuted). 

The final episode of the act concerns the duel that Dr. Caius 
and Sir Hugh Evans come near to fighting over Anne Page. The 
tune Ex. 6 is made the basis of an animated discussion for five 
male voices. And while they are getting more and more excited 
wondering about the issue of the duel Falstaff emerges dressed 
in his best and marches off to his assignation to Ex. 12. 

Act I II 

The first of the two scenes of Act HI deals with the subsidiary 
characters Evans, Shallow, Simple, the Host, Dr. Caius, and 
Rugby and carries their subplot a stage farther. Musically it 
forms a bustling prelude to a still more bustling conclusion, for 
in the second scene the plot reaches its climax and we have the 
discomfiture both of Falstaff and of Ford and the triumph of the 
women. So that this act is to be all animation before the nocturne 
in Windsor Forest which is to provide the anticlimax necessary 
to all comedies of intrigue. There is one lyrical moment when 
Mrs. Page sings 'Greensleeves', and this lovely setting of the most 
famous of all Elizabethan tunes makes a point of repose in the 
swift action and its lively music. 

The act, however, actually opens slowly and tearfully with a 
heavy orchestral sigh: 

Hems & Woodwjnd 

Poor Sir Hugh Evans is in a great state of perturbation. Sword in 
hand, awaiting his opponent, he seeks to draw some consolation 


to calm his nerves from a book of poems. He finds two passages 
but in his agitation mixes them up Psalm 137 and Mario we's 
'Passionate Shepherd'. In the play Evans, who has difficulties with 
his labial consonants, sings the latter first, beginning in the middle 
of the second stanza of 'Come live with me and be my love', 

To shallow rivers, to whose falls 
Melodious birds sing madrigals 
There will we make our peds of roses 
And a thousand vagrant posies 

which is not quite accurate but near enough to what Marlowe 
wrote about the beds of roses. Emotion overcoming him, he 
starts again and interpolates a line of the Psalm: 

Melodious birds sing madrigals 
When as I sat in Papylon 
And a thousand vagram posies 
To shallow rivers 

In the opera we hear the traditional tune of 'To Shallow Rivers' 
before Evans opens his mouth, but the first words he utters are a 
metrical version of the isyth Psalm which he chants to the psalm- 
tune 'St. Mary'. 

'To Shallow Rivers' is an ancestral version of 'Black-eyed 
Susan'. Chappell explains that in composing this song for the 
ballad operas of the mid-eighteenth century Leveridge 'seems to 
have drawn more on memory than imagination', and adds that 
*one of the snatches sung by Ophelia in Hamlet and several other 
old songs begin in the same manner'. 'Black-eyed Susan' begins 


All in ihe downs the fleet was moored; the streamers wav - ing in the wind. 

Dr. Vaughan Williams's version is in common time and after an 
almost identical beginning the tunes begin to diverge: 


9 m. 3 



r j| 


4 r < ^'I'lH " j- 


*St. Mary' is a tune for the metrical versions of the Psalms which 
were made in the early days of Protestant worship. Its first known 
appearance is in Prys's Welsh Psalter of 1621. It is to be found in 
The English Hymnal (No. 84) and is the subject of a fine Chorale 
Prelude for organ by Charles Wood. Evans does not manage to 
finish his Psalm in one attempt, but breaks off to speak to Simple. 
And he talks to himself before he begins on 'To Shallow Rivers', 
at which also he has two attempts. But Simple has returned bring 
ing with him Shallow, Page, Ford, Slender, and Host, though 
not Caius for the moment. 'Ford takes no part in the proceedings 
but stands gloomily apart' (stage direction). The orchestra begins 
to fuss in 12/8 time as each man makes a characteristic utterance. 
When Caius and Rugby enter it resumes the imitation folk-tune 
(in the same rhythm) associated with Caius in Act I, Ex. 6. To 
this tune Caius springs at Evans, but the two are kept apart by 
the Host and the others. Host then sings a ballad of pacification 
'alia marcia': 



Gal - lia and Gaul, French and Welsh, soul cur - er and bo - dy cur - er. 

which leads to an outburst of enthusiasm from all the men present 
except Ford, and they prepare to go in and seal the reconciliation 
in a drink when a clock strikes ten. This rouses Ford. He invites 
the company to dinner with a promise that they shall have some 
sport and he will show them a monster. The company is agog 
with curiosity and off they go singing e Peg a Ramsey' 

When I was a bach - e - lor I lived a mer - ry life, But 

which touches Ford too closely for him to be able to join in 
singing it. This is the tune which Hawkins (in his History of Music) 


says belongs to the song 'Peg a' Ramsey', mentioned by Shake 
speare in Twelfth Night, and it is found in William Ballet's Lute 
Book (1594) preserved at Dublin. At a later date in Wit and Mirth, 
or Pills to Purge Melancholy (1707), the tune is found united with 
its original words: 

Bonny Peg o' Ramsey is that any man may see 

And bonny is her face with a fair freckled eye 

Neat is her body made and she hath good skill 

And round are her bonny arms that work well at the mill. 

But in Shakespeare's time the ballad with the refrain of the watch 
ful wife was common, since Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy 
(1621) quotes the line immediately following those given above 
'Give me my yellow hose again'. Slender sings 'O sweet Anne 
Page* as a counterpoint to 'Peg a' Ramsey', and at its last lines 
'For my wife she watches me, see yonder where she goes' the 
stage is blacked out and the orchestra begins an entracte. 

The motif of Ford's jealousy, Ex. 9, is heard at once. Then 
follows optionally, if the scene-shifters need time, a tissue com 
posed of allusions to music akeady heard including Falstaff 's song 
O that joy so soon should waste' from Act n, the fussing 12/8 
music of Shallow, Slender, Host, and company, and a return to 

Just before the lights go up the orchestra begins a moto perpetuo 
founded on the country dance tune 'Speed the Plough'. When the 
curtain rises we are in Ford's house and we find Mrs. Ford giving 
orders to bring in the washing basket. When all is made ready for 
Falstaff's downfall Mrs. Ford lies down on the couch and takes up 
her lute. She begins to sing 'Greensleeves', which in this setting is 
the gem of the whole opera. ' Greensleeves' seems to have been 
the most hard-worked tune in England during the century from 
1575 on. It is constantly found in the song books of the early 
seventeenth century. Verses are printed, and at the head or foot 
the indication that they are to be sung to the tune 'Greensleeves' 
all manner of verse including Christmas carols. It was popular also 
as a dance measure but did not appear in Playford's The Dancing 


Master till the edition of 1686. The tune is found in William 
Ballet's Lute Book, but the first reference to the ballad is in the 
Stationers' Company's Register in 1580. That it already enjoyed 
considerable vogue, however, is shown by the fact that there is 
also a licence of about the same time to another printer for * A 
Ballad, being the Ladie Greene Sleeves Answere to Donkyn his 
frende'. The present words are taken as they stand from the 
miscellany A Handefull of Pleasant Delites of 1584. Shakespeare 
mentions the tune twice in The Merry Wives of Windsor. In Act II, 
Scene i, Mrs. Ford says of Falstaff 's knavish disposition and his fair 
words that 'they do no more adhere and keep place together than 
the Hundredth Psalm to the tune of "Greensleeves" '. Which 
looks as though it was then rather sung at a slow tempo and with 
the melancholy passion of the present setting than at the brisk 
pace demanded by dancers, whether of 1680 or of 1950. But 
'adhere* and 'keep place' may mean no more than the fitting of 
notes and accents, and may not refer to the suitability of setting 
a doxology to a lover's plaint. This allusion is not found in the 
libretto of the opera. The other one is, however: in Act V, Scene v, 
Falstaff arrives in Windsor Forest disguised as Herne the Hunter, 
and on meeting Mrs. Ford there says, 'Let the sky rain potatoes, 
let it thunder to the tune of "Greensleeves" ... let there come a 
tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here'. 

As Mrs. Ford finishes her song Falstaff's voice is heard off 
echoing hers. He enters, sees Mrs. Ford, who is pretending to have 
fallen off to sleep, and sings at once, 'Have I caught my heavenly 
jewel?' This is the first line of a song of Sir Philip Sidney quoted 
by Shakespeare, but Vaughan Williams has set the whole verse 
and made a song of it to balance 'Greensleeves'. 



M I "=fc 
myheaven-ly jew - d teach -ing sleep _ most fair to be? 

They have hardly had time to join their voices in a duet when 
the time changes to a brisk 2/4 and Mrs. Quickly comes rush 
ing in, interrupting Falstaff 's love passages and announcing the 


hurried arrival of Mrs. Page. Breathlessly she declares that Ford 
is at the door: 

Ex. 28. 

Allegro nan troppo 


Falstaff goes behind the arras. Refuge in the basket is suggested 
for him and they pack him in to Ex. 27, not, however, before 
Mrs. Page has confronted him with her letter. Immediately the 
strains of 'Peg a Ramsey' (Ex. 26) are heard off as Ford's small 
army approaches. Mrs. Page now retires behind the arras. In 
Shakespeare the arras is only used for Falstaff 's temporary hiding- 
place before he gets into the basket. In Verdi's Falstaff Boito turned 
it to splendid account in hiding Fenton and Nanetta behind it 
and revealing them during Ford's frantic search. Vaughan 
Williams has borrowed the idea, but put Mrs. Page behind the 
screen to appear demurely at a dramatic moment, and so un 
expectedly as to make the Host and Dr. Caius think she is the 
'monster' Ford promised to show them. 

Ford searches the house to the tune of 'The Old Wife of 
DallowgHT, while the women and the orchestra have another 
tune which they maintain in various forms persistently against the 
dance tune. This is a tune well known in the north Yorkshire 
dales, where it is used for sword dancing. Miss Gilchrist recovered 
part of it from a former leader of a troup of sword dancers at 
Shap, and Cecil Sharp used it for the Ampleforth Sword Dance. 
The 'Captain' of the Kirkly Malzeard Sword Dancers refers to it 
in the last verse of his song introducing the dancers: 

You've seen them all go round, 
Think on them what you will, 
Music, strike up and play 
'T'auld wife o' DallowgilT. 

The plot at this point does not follow Shakespeare, who brings 
back Ford looking foolish at having found no one in his house 
and begging everyone's pardon because he cannot for the moment 
justify his suspicions. Boito, as just mentioned, discomfits Ford by 
disclosing not Falstaff but the embarrassed young lovers behind 


the screen. Vaughan Williams reveals Mrs. Page, who comes 
forward with a mocking curtsey. The company then begin to 
talk all at once over this mock-formal tune (quasi-minuet): 


The men sing 

Here lies the proof by that which they do 
Wives may be merry and yet honest too. 

This moves Ford to beg his wife's pardon and they all join in 
singing *Peg a Ramsey' (Ex. 26). 

Act IV 

Two scenes of unequal length and importance make up the 
fourth act. The first scene occupies only half the stage and shows 
a room in Ford's house where Ford and his wife are conversing 
in the full ardour of reconciliation. There has been a short prelude 
of gracious, warm-hearted music, in which occurs this melody: 

Ex. 30. 

Andante piacevole 

pp semplice 

Why does it sound familiar? Partly because it is a blood relation 
of the other love>-songs addressed to Mrs. Ford though they, to 
be sure, were lecherous rather than loving in intent. Partly because 
it hints at a quotation from Richard Edwards's madrigal 'In going 
to my naked bed': 


The fcll-in&out of fifth - - fel friends, re-new-iagis 

Sure enough when Mrs. Ford grants her husband the pardon 
which he begs it is in those words from the madrigal 'The falling 


out of faithful friends, renewing is of love'. And the whole passage 
is redolent of renewed love. But before it is over we hear of a new 
plot: the Pages arrive with their little son. Sir Hugh Evans is 
prepared c to teach the children their behaviours', and Mrs. Page, 
taking the centre of the stage, unfolds her plan. The old legend 
of Herne the Hunter is its starting-point and this Tarnhelm-ish 
progression of chords is its motif: 

Ex, 32. 

Lento mistsrioso 

Strings, Wood -wind, Horn 

The ghostly goings-on when the Hunter walks the forest, how 
ever, are depicted in a bustling 12/8 quasi-folk-dance tune: 


Poco piu messo 

Evans, having already conducted a rehearsal of his imitation 
fairies, comes on, and the music changes to another dance tune, 
which forms the basis of a choral ensemble: 




Amid all this excitement and bustle the Page parents are forging 
another and more serious plot to get Anne abducted and married 
that night. But as they favour different suitors and the one thinks 
she will be wearing green while the other declares for white, it is 
not surprising that eventually the plot miscarries and Anne gets 
her own choice. All is now ready and the party makes off to the 
forest and to the rendezvous at Herne die Hunter's oak. An 
entracte covers the change of scene which brings the full stage into 


use. The change can be a quick one, and the music provided for 
it consists of a page or so of dance music founded on Ex. 34, 
horn-calls to suggest the forest and an orchestral version of 

Scene ii lights up gradually and shows Herne's oak in the moon 
light. The conspirators enter in pairs and small parties of would- 
be fairies also appear. All this plotting has a disturbing effect on 
the rhythm and phrasing. A clock strikes twelve. They all run off 
the stage. Enter Falstaff wearing horns, rather depressed but not 
to be baulked of his aims. Over heavy pizzicato chords his 'Own 
true knight' theme is heard (Ex. 12). He makes his great invoca 
tion to Jove, who became a bull for love of Europa and a swan 
for Leda, to help one that has become a Windsor stag for Mrs. 
Ford. Her voice, apt to the moment, is heard offstage calling him 
in something very like her 'heavenly jewel' tune (Ex. 27). He has 
just begun to make love to Mrs. Ford when she remarks that 
Mrs. Page is there too. Ex. 12 again, agitato this time, as Falstaff 
says he is equal to them both. At this point the fairies start chro 
matic wailings off and soon come on from every direction. Last 
of all comes Anne Page, dressed as the Queen of the Fairies, who, 
to the sound of the 'Tarnhelm' theme (Ex. 32), charges them what 
they shall do. During the dance that follows Caius and Slender 
each get the fairy whom they have been given to understand is 
Anne Page in disguise, while Anne is carried off by Fenton to 
Ex. 5 (in a broader version). Meantime Evans takes charge of the 
dance and stops it abruptly exactly opposite Falstaff with the 
remark that he 'smells a man of middle earth*. The fairies tease 
Falstaff, pinching him and singeing him with their tapers. The 
dance starts up again with another 12/8 measure akin to Ex. 33. 
At a horn-call the fairies rush off the stage and leave Falstaff. But 
only for a moment. A stately processional starts 


and the principal characters enter, beginning with Mr. and Mrs. 
Page; they address suitable remarks to Falstaff, until he says, 1 
do begin to perceive that I am made an ass'. Ford then cheerfully 
says, 'Ah you're not the only one who has the laugh against you. 
Tell my wife that by now her daughter is married to Master 
Slender/ But Slender is there to tell how he was deceived into 
taking a lubberly boy' to church. Mrs. Page then says, 'Well, 
well, never mind, Anne is by this time married to Dr. Caius/ 
At this moment enter Caius dragging the page Robin whom he 
has just 'married'. Caius storms to the duel music from the 
beginning of Act III, plus a counterpoint. Then there is a snatch of 
Ex. 6 as Caius and Rugby (with whom it is associated) depart. 
Ford says, 'This is strange; who hath the right Anne?' And forth 
with a soft arpeggio chord of E flat strikes the ear and a chorus 
is heard off singing 


See the char -iot at hand here of love where -in my la - dy rid - eth. 

and the great song prepared for us by Fenton in the first act is 
launched upon the night air of the forest. From E flat the raptur 
ous tune plunges into the more passionate key of F minor for the 
second verse, to which Fenton adds a descant which ends up 
triumphantly in C major. Musically this epithalamium might 
serve as the climax and conclusion of the opera, but the plot is 
not yet completely unravelled. Page wants to know what the 
mischief is the meaning of it all. Falstaff steps forward and utters 
a few words of appeasement to parental wrath. This touch of mag 
nanimity, to 'John come kiss me', makes Sir John once more 
lovable and reconciled to all. In blessing the whole party he again 
takes the centre of the stage to finish his comedy. But an opera 
may not descend to its close as a comedy can and ought. It must 
broaden to some great tune or conclude with some formal en 
semble. Sir John in Love, like some of the composer's symphonies, 
ends with an epilogue. We hear its massive opening as the Merry 
Wives and their husbands finish their last couplet (Ex. i). Falstaff 
advances with the young lovers (Anne and Fenton) on his right 


and the old rascals (Pistol and Quickly) on his left, and leads the 
whole company in a sententious finale. The words are taken from 
Philip Rosseter's A Book of Airs (1601) and are sometimes at 
tributed to Campion, who collaborated with Rosseter. 

Whether men do laugh or weep, 
Whether they do wake or sleep, 
Whether they die young or old, 
Whether they feel heat or cold, 
There is underneath the sun 
Nothing in true earnest done. 

But with such words formality breaks down and before they have 
ceased singing they have danced a few steps and regrouped them 
selves. A bagpiper appears on the scene and begins to play "Half 
Hanriikin', which is the sign for a general dance, whose figures, 
taken from English folk-dances, are prescribed by the composer. 
At the end of it they all take breath and lift up their voices in 
harmony, echoing the words 'And the world is but a play* and 
the music of Ex. I. 

The tune 'Half Hannikin' is found in the first edition of Play- 
ford's The Dancing Master (1650), but the dance was done as early 
as the reign of Henry VIE. Miss Gilchrist (Journal of the English 
Folk Dance Society, 193 1) traces its history from a grotesque dance 
of early Tudor times. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time) 
quotes an account by Sir H. Herbert of a performance at White 
hall in 1622 of Jonson's masque Time Vindicated, after which *the 
Prince did lead the measures with the French Ambassador's wife 
and the measures, branles, corrantos, and galliards being ended, the 
masquers with the ladies did daunce two country dances, namely, 
The Soldiers Marche and Huff Hamukin. Vaughan Williams, 
however, emphasizes its popular origin by harmonizing the tune 
with consecutive triads to suggest the bagpipe's wheezy sound. 

Postscript to Sir John in Love 

Six years after the publication of Sir John in Love there appeared 
a supplement to the opera, consisting of a Prologue, an Episode, 
and an Interlude. These are three optional numbers which may 
be added to the performance at the discretion of the producer. 


The conductor is not likely to take a strong line about any of them 
except the Interlude, which contains new and significant music. 
It deals with Fenton's wooing of Anne Page and serves to increase 
the lyrical element in the opera (c p. 274). 

The Prologue was written for a performance of the opera by 
the Bristol Opera School in the autumn of 1933 conducted by 
Mr. Robert Percival. It is based on the tradition that The Merry 
Wives of Windsor was hastily composed to order by Shakespeare 
for a performance before Queen Elizabeth. Plays were the stand 
ard method of entertaining royalty in the sixteenth and seven 
teenth centuries, and the tradition goes that the Queen wanted to 
hear more about the Fat Knight, and herself suggested that Sir 
John might be seen 'in love'. Students of Shakespeare explain the 
discrepancy between the Knight of the Histories and the Knight 
of this comedy in the light of this legend. The Prologue, therefore, 
shows the Queen's Chamberlain, Lord Hunsdon, interviewing 
the Master of the Revels about the arrangements for the Queen's 
entertainment. It opens with a fanfare of two trumpets, two horns, 
and tenor trombone. Servants are preparing the stage, a procession 
of girls enters strewing flowers, followed by the Queen herself 
and the courtiers, the fanfare meantime having changed to a 
march tune. The words sung are a pastiche with the refrain: 

O beauteous Queen of second Troy 
Accept of our unfeigned joy. 

(The first line is familiar for its occurrence in Byrd's madrigal, 
'This sweet and merry month'.) The players are brought on, 
Hemynge in the part and costume of Falstaff, to a quasi-folk- 
dance tune in the style of 'Sir Roger de Coverley'. The Queen 
expresses her acceptance of the play and her wish to see Falstaff 
in love. The Lord Chamberlain dismisses the company with the 
words, 'Now go, make you ready your play "Sir John in Love"/ 
Hence the tide, echoed to the roof by the players and chorus. 


The Episode occurs in Act I between the exit of Mrs. Quickly, 
who has been talking to Dr. Caius about Anne Page, and the 


drinking chorus 'Back and side go bare' sung by Bardolph, Nym, 
Pistol, and the Host. It is the thieving expedition mentioned in the 
stage directions (p. 58 of vocal score; c p. 279 above), and its 
purpose is to show these rapscallions in operation instead of merely 
discussing their thefts. Some ladies and gentlemen of the court 
enter and begin to sing a new version of 'Say dainty dames shall 
we go play?' familiar to us from Weelkes's madrigal. Pistol enters 
and picks a pocket, Nym does the same, Bardolph tries and fails 
and only just escapes being seen. Nym criticizes his technique: 
'His thefts are too open; he kept not time', FalstafTs words in 
Shakespeare, not Nym's. The dialogue which is put together 
from the third scene of the first act of The Merry Wives is con 
ducted over the madrigal sung by the chorus, while the orchestra 
continues its very active bass 'alia marcia* which runs naturally 
into the preliminary music of the carousal ballad, Ex. 8 (see 
above, p. 279). 

The opening music of the Episode, however, has been a flowing 
texture of free counterpoint based on a tune in the Lydian mode: 

Ex. 37. 



*r ^ ' 

iff f fJ 



The 'madrigal 5 hovers tonally between this and D major with an 
excursion into E, but on its return to the flats it subsides into F. 
The final tonic chord of F contains D instead of C, but it remains 
a tonic chord and not a chord of the sixth all the same. After the 
join with the main stream the tonality becomes D Dorian, so that 
the two episodes, though related tonally, are differentiated. Thus 
these few pages form an illuminating example of Vaughan 
Williams's use of neo-modal keys. 


This Interlude, in which Fenton's love for Anne Page is de 
veloped and the deception of Slender and Dr. Caius made more 
prominent, may be played, according to the composer's directions, 
either between the first and second acts or between the first and 


second scenes of Act E. It begins with a short prelude of the main 
love music, Ex. 2, a foretaste of Ex. 36. Fenton appears and tells 
Host of his love for Anne. When the Host replies encouragingly, 
a pipe tune is heard in the distance, which increases in volume till 
a chorus of young men and girls, including Anne, comes on 
singing to the accompaniment of a piper and drummer. Host 
approaches and asks them what they think of Master Fenton, and 
promptly answers the question himself over rather breathless 
repetitions of an eager one-bar phrase. The upshot of it is that 
Anne says, 'Let him woo for himself, which Fenton thereupon 
proceeds to do in a lovely song. The words 'Beauty clear and fair' 
are by John Fletcher. The chorus echoes the lover's word and 
Anne gives her answer. A choral waltz sets the seal upon their 
love and a crown of flowers upon their heads: 



Fair . and fair and twice so fair, As fair as an - y may be. 

This is developed at length into an ensemble for chorus, lovers, 
and Host. The words are a dialogue of Oenone and Paris in The 
Arraignment of Paris, a play written for the Children of the Chapel 
in 1583 by George Peele (1558-97)- The scene may end here or it 
may be pursued farther by Anne revealing to Host her difficulty 
with the two other suitors being pressed upon her by her father 
and mother. The conspiracy which takes place in the fourth act 
may thus be prepared at this point. When all is arranged Host 
turns to go, as he has to wait upon Falstaff, but he turns round and 
sings to Fenton in joke, 1 mun be married a-Sunday', borrowed 
from Ralph Roister Doister* This is echoed offstage by the chorus 
and the episode is closing when Caius rushes on calling for Anne 
Page. Slender also enters and their mutual embarrassment is re 
solved in an extra courtly bow to each other. They walk off 
together just as the piper and drummer are heard returning from 
escorting the lovers back to Windsor. The orchestral interlude 
in the score may now be resumed at a point a few bars after it was 
broken off. 



Job, one of the greatest creations of its composer, is wholly char 
acteristic, profoundly English, and unflinchingly modern. Each 
of these epithets might be justified and expanded from the score 
alone. But great as it is, this music is only a part of a greater whole 
the ballet, or, as the composer preferred with doubtful historical 
warrant to call it, a masque for dancing. Job is music for the stage, 
and it is only when it is played as an accompaniment to stage 
action that the full greatness of the music is revealed. It is perhaps 
paradoxical that subservience should exalt it, but it is true; and it 
is also true that without the right music, as this music is right 
for it, the magnificent drama of the stage could not take wing. 
The synthesis of dramatic idea, plastic design, stage decor, music, 
and dancing is achieved in Job to a rare degree; in this Gesamt- 
kunstwerk the unification is complete. To see and hear why 
have we no comprehensive word for actively assisting at the 
presentation of a work of zttfJob is a wholly absorbing experi 
ence. And the reason is not far to seek its origin is a fundamental 
human experience which in its serial passage through the minds 
of the poet author of the Book of Job, of the visionary draughts 
man who made the Illustrations of the Book of Job, and of the 
mystical x composer who has entered into equal partnership with 
them, has been distilled into one of those sublime works of art 
in which matter and form have been fused, and from which all 
dross has been purged. 

But it had a physical as well as a spiritual origin. By 1927 Dr. 
Geoffrey Keynes, a scholar steeped in the mind of William Blake, 
had become convinced, through long familiarity with Blake's 
designs, that behind their 'elaborate grandeur* the inner thread of 
the drama 'possessed a fundamental simplicity, and if this could be 
successfully extracted it would provide the theme for a ballet of a 
kind new to the English stage. Blake had, moreover, unconsciously 

1 This is a dangerous word; I mean by it here a mind which has consistently 
chosen the mystical poets and apocalyptic texts for setting and elsewhere written 
music strong in penetrating vision. 


provided in his designs settings which could easily be adapted for 
stage scenes, and innumerable suggestions in his figures for 
attitudes and groupings which cried out for their conversion by a 
choreographer into actuality and movement.' 1 

Dr. Keynes, therefore, contrived a scenario, and with the help 
of an artist, Mrs. Gwendolen Raverat, who made the stage set 
tings, reduced Blake's twenty-one engravings to eight scenes and 
so constructed the framework of a ballet of suitable length. It 
remained to find the music and the choreography. Diaghilev was 
approached for the latter, but he turned down the project, Dr. 
Keynes relates, as 'too English' and 'too old-fashioned'. He was 
right about its Englishness, and it was perhaps just as well that it 
was left to someone with a better understanding of things Eng 
lish to devise a suitable choreography. Ninette de Valois soaked 
herself in Blake's designs and so to speak dissolved out of their 
attitudes, groupings, and gestures a flowing stream of physical 

Before this Dr. Vaughan Williams had been approached with 
an invitation to write the music. He found the subject congenial, 
and when on Diaghilev's refusal there seemed no immediate pros 
pect of the complete work getting on to the stage, he was unable 
to relinquish the task, and completed his score for a full concert 
orchestra. In this form Job was finished early in 1930 and was per 
formed for the first time at the Norwich festival on 23 October of 
that year. When the possibilities of dramatic performance came 
once more into view with the foundation of the Camargo Society 
for the furtherance of the art of ballet in England, a reduced score 
was made by Constant Lambert. The complete work was per 
formed for the first time at the Cambridge Theatre on 5 and 6 July 
193 1. A few weeks later, on 24 July, it was performed by the same 
company at the ninth annual festival of the International Society 
for Contemporary Music held at Oxford. 

In writing the music, Dr. Vaughan Williams naturally went for 
first-hand inspiration to Blake's engravings, and the score bears 
frequent reference to individual pictures in the series. It is easy to 

1 Introduction to Pierpont Morgan Library reproduction of Blake's Illustrations 
to the Book of Job. 


understand that music so derived might not in every particular 
follow the detailed scenario which Dr. Keynes and Mrs. Raverat 
had derived from their study of the engravings. The synopsis of 
the plot and the detailed stage directions of the score are not there 
fore identical with the synopsis which is always printed in the pro 
gramme when the ballet is staged. In discussing the music scene by 
scene I shall, therefore, print both synopses side by side in order 
that it may be clear exactly how the composer's mind envisaged 
the subject presented to him by others. 

His change of title from ballet to masque is also significant of his 
attitude. 'Masque for dancing' is a very fair description, but within 
the strict meaning of the terms it involves a measure of confusion 
and even self-contradiction. Dancing is in any case one of the 
senior partners in the company of the elements which coalesce to 
form the masque, pageantry is its equal, music and poetry its 
juniors. But senior or junior, the essence of the masque is that it is 
a combination of all the arts of the theatre, and without songs and 
dialogues a masque is not a masque but a pantomime. The modern 
descendant of the masque is the revue. In Job there is no spoken 
word though there is drama, and there are no songs though there 
is music. In so far as dancing is the chief element of the masque it is 
redundant to speak of a masque for dancing. In so far as dancing 
is made to provide the whole instead of only a part of the dramatic 
structure the masque is not a masque but a ballet. But 'ballet* has 
two implications in modern times which probably account for Dr. 
Vaughan Williams shying away from it. It is a sophisticated, if not 
a frivolous, entertainment and its interest is altogether too female. 
The modern balletomane cares for little beyond the prowess of his 
favourite ballerina. On the other hand, 'masque' has two implica 
tions that make it applicable to Dr. Vaughan Williams's Job 
aristocratic dignity and the musical forms of the seventeenth 
century. The basic designs of the music of Job are the dance-forms 
of the period, when the masque flourished in England the sara 
band, the minuet, the pavane, the galliard and in one place the 
composer suggests that the figures of the dance may take a hint 
from two English country dances which were then approaching 
the height of their vogue. The subjects of the masques were usually 


taken from ckssical mythology, allegory, or the more remote 
branches of history, and their treatment was more opulent and 
discursive than is desirable in Job. The summary of the matter is 
therefore that 'masque for dancing 5 is apt but inaccurate, and that it 
is customary and convenient to call Job a ballet, because it is one, so 
long as one remembers it is like no other ballet. 

The next point to be elucidated throws light on the music 
indirectly through its bearing on the dramatic plan of the work. 
Those who see the ballet for the first time must notice and be 
puzzled by the physical resemblance of Job to the Godhead. On 
reference to their programme they read that the figure who is 
clearly represented dramatically as God is called Job's Spiritual 
Self, and they leap to the conclusion that this is another of those 
hypocritical periphrases required by the Censor of Stage Plays, 
who will not allow representations of Divine Persons on the 
English stage. But they will be wrong. The idea is Blake's, and it 
is Blake who, in his engravings, envisages God as Job's spiritual 
self and intentionally makes the two figures resemble each other. 
Furthermore, Satan is also Job himself in his more earthy and 
material aspects, and though Satan is not depicted in the linea 
ments of Job, he is allowed to usurp the Throne. In a simple 
Biblical drama of Good and Evil Satan might take to himself all 
the powers of this world, but could hardly mount the throne of 
the God of the Universe. The story of Blake's designs is not that 
of simple illustrations to a book of the Bible but to a drama of his 
own conception that grew out of a lifelong preoccupation with 
the Book of Job. Blake's drama is not therefore a debate on the 
problem of suffering but a 'primarily subjective experience; the 
account of a man's inward struggle and triumph; the conflict 
between his indwelling Good and Evil powers*. 1 'Blake', Mr. 
Wicksteed further remarks, 'set out to answer the problem of evil 
which was posed but was ultimately evaded by the author of the 
Book of Job.' The twenty-one engravings which he made in 1820, 
thirty-five years after his interest was first engaged in the subject 
of Job, are therefore Blake's answer to this ultimate problem. 

1 Dr. Keynes quoting Mr. Joseph Wicksteed, who first convincingly expounded 
the symbolism in Blake's art. 



Scene I 

(Dr. Keynes's scenario is printed on die left-hand side of the page, 
Dr. VaughanWilliams's on the right.) 
Job is sitting in the sunset of 'Hast thou considered my ser- 

prosperity with his wife, sur 
rounded by his seven sons and 
three daughters. They all join in a 
pastoral dance. When they have 
dispersed, leaving Job and his wife 
alone, Satan enters unperceived. 
He appeals to Heaven, which 
opens, revealing the Godhead 
(Job's Spiritual Self) enthroned 
within. On the steps are the 
Heavenly Hosts. Job's Spiritual 
Self consents that his moral nature 
be tested in the furnace of 

It is to be observed that as in Flos Campi each section of the 
music has a superscription of a quotation from scripture. 
The scene is set as follows: 

vant Job?' Introduction, Pastoral 
Dance, Satan s Appeal to God, 
Saraband of the Sons of God. Job 
and his family sitting in quiet con 
tentment surrounded by flocks 
and herds. Satan enters unper- 
ceived and appeals to heaven. God 
answers: *All that he hath is in thy 


Largo sosttnvto 

The flute and viola play the pastoral tune, divided strings the con 
secutive triads which are so conspicuous a mannerism of Vaughan 
Williams's personal idiom; the harp doubles it all and suffuses it 
with pale gold. The alternation of triplets with even quavers is a 


fundamental feature of Job's personal themes, which here include 
his children. His seven sons and three daughters now dance, and 
the choreographer is instructed to take a hint from the folk-dances 
'Jenny pluck pears' which is in Playford's The Dancing Master, and 
*Hunsdon House 5 . The women's dance begins: 


Allegro piacevole 

The men respond and encircle the women to 


Allegro piacevole 

1 Oboe P 

and by and by the two themes are put together as the dance 
becomes general. It may be of interest to quote the tune of 'Jenny 
pluck pears' to show the similarity of rhythmic shape and the 
combination of simple and compound time: 

though the relationship is not in the contour of the tunes but in 
the figures of the dance. 

Job stands up and blesses his children during this dance. The 
blessedness of Job's estate and the beauty of his family life seem to 
be symbolized in a descending tune against a rising progression of 
chords of the sixth and 6/4: 



This tune is derived from Ex. i see the second bar for its germ 
and has already been heard with its chordal accompaniment on the 
entry of Job's family. It is heard again as the curtain goes down 
when after his trials are over he gazes once more on the distant 
cornfields and his daughters come in to receive his blessing. 

Enter Satan. How is music to depict the Evil One? Evil is moral 
disorder, a negative quality, that is, not a positive. It is a concep 
tion only intelligible by reference to good which man perceives 
by a direct intuition. He cannot really conceive pure and positive 
evil. Now music also is a kind of spiritual order, non-moral in 
kind but bearing an obvious analogy to a moral order both for 
instance lead to a kind of harmony. Music is the organization and 
ordering of auditory experience; beginning with mathematical 
pitch and going on to the arrangement of notes in a scale, from 
there to the evolution of tonality, combined in rhythm with 
temporal organization and in form with the symmetries of sound, 
the whole art is an evolution of successively higher organization 
and ordering of its subject-matter. (This is why, incidentally, 
atonality is doomed to failure from the very nature of music itself.) 
Key and the whole of the elaborate body of experience known as 
harmony is therefore an analogue of the moral order and is cap 
able of depicting that immorality which is only intelligible in 
reference to a moral order mere chaos expresses nothing either 
in morals or music. Immorality is not chaos, and cacophony, 
which is sheer musical disorder, will present nothing except chaos. 
Evil can therefore be very well represented in music by clashes, 
distractions, and self-contradictions all within the order of har 
mony. Satan is therefore introduced in a definite key system. The 
context is G minor; Satan tears it asunder and leaps out of it into 
A major via a chord of B flat minor. 


The syncopation, the leaps outside the octave and the violent 
antithesis of major and minor tonality all help the effect of 

In contrast to this the Heavens now open and reveal the Sons of 
God grouped round the throne (as in Blake's second engraving). 
They begin to move in a majestic saraband: 


\m J 



ps and Strings 

f : f f 

- ^ ! 

God summons Satan and says 'Hast thou considered my servant 
Job?' (Ex. i). Satan says *Put forth thy hand now and touch all 
that he hath and he will curse thee to thy face' (Ex. 6 amplified). 
God says (Engraving No. 5) 'All that he hath is in thy power' in 
a phrase of incomparable sweep and authority: 





Swags asad Fhae"*^^^ 
Oaiaeit nd Bassoon 

The Sons of God resume their saraband; God leaves his throne. 

Seme II 

Satan after a triumphal dance *So Satan went forth from the 
usurps the throne. presence of the Lord/ 

Satan s Dance. 

God's throne is empty. Satan in 
wild triumph seats himself upon it. 

Satan's music with its contradictions of mode, its alternating 
semitones and its leaps across unrelated key is recalled Ex. 6 
and developed into an animated and angular dance: 


j.i | , j . i . ,I T t f fr t t ir i , LJ i i 1. 1 : 

fog j t *r * r * i ' * < i ^ r mj * uJ hJ = 



with a trio in march time and a coda in which the music based on 
Ex. 6 is heard again as Satan climbs towards the throne. As he 
kneels in mockery before it the plainsong Gloria in excelsis Deo is 
blazed out in irony on the heavy brass. When with a big gesture he 
seats himself thereon there is a hint of the tune of Ex. 8, but it 
breaks off at once into Satan's distracted semitones and ends 

Scene III 
Job's sons and daughters are 'There came a great wind and 

feasting and dancing when Satan 
appears and destroys them. 

smote the four corners of the 
house and it fell upon the young 
men and they are dead/ 

Minuet of the sons and daughters 

Job's children are feasting and 
dancing: Satan appears and 
destroys them. 

The composer directs that the dance shall be formal, statu 
esque, and slightly voluptuous. This is the minuet he writes for it, 
mostly in three-bar phrases: 

Ex, 10. 

Andante con moto 

Hirp aad Ceflo Soto 

Satan's stroke is depicted in the juxtaposition of two triads in 
different rhythmic positions (cf. the end of Ex. 6). 


This scene is sometimes referred to quite inappropriately as the 


Scene IV 

Job's peaceful sleep is disturbed 'In thoughts from the visions of 
by Satan with terrifying visions of the night . . . fear came upon me 
War, Pestilence, and Famine. and trembling.' 

Job's Dream. Dance of Plague, 
Pestilence, Famine, and Battle, 

Job is quietly asleep. Satan leans 
over him, and evokes terrible 
visions which dance round him, 
foreboding his tribulation to 


A new Job theme is announced by the violas over a tonic pedal: 

Ex, 12. 

When Satan enters (without his own theme) the music illustrates 
numbers 6 and n of Blake's engravings. Plague has some curdling 
consecutive fourths and fifths over one of Vaughan Williams's 
walking basses in level crotchets. Battle has a martial tune on the 
trumpets. After the visions have danced round Job they disappear, 
and the scene leads straight into the next. Hereafter the numbering 
of the scenes is out of step, as the composer has separated the dance 
of the Messengers from that of the Hypocrites which follows it. 

Scent V 

Messengers come to Job with 
tidings of the destruction of all his 
possessions and the death of his 
sons and daughters. Satan intro 
duces Job's Comforters, three 
wily hypocrites. Their dance at 
first simulates compassion, but 
this gradually changes to rebuke 
and anger. Job rebels: 'Let the day 
perish wherein I was born/ He 
invokes his vision of the Godhead, 

Scenes V and VI 

'There came a messenger.' 

Dance of the messengers. 

The messengers announce to 
Job the destruction of all his 
wealth and the death of his sons 
and daughters. Job still blesses 

'Behold happy is the man 
whom God correcteth.' 

Dance ofJoVs Comforters. JoVs 
Curse. A vision of Satan. 


but the opening Heaven reveals Satan introduces Job's corn- 
Satan upon the throne. Job and his forters, three wily hypocrites, 
friends shrink in terror. Their dance is at first one of 

apparent sympathy, but gradually 
changes to rebuke and anger. Job 
curses God. 'Let the day perish 
wherein I was born/ Job invokes 
his vision of God. Heaven opens 
and reveals Satan seated on God's 
throne. Job and his friends cower 
in terror. 

Job wakes to a little call from the oboe, and soon processional 
music is heard for the funeral cortege of Job's sons and their 
wives. The scene ends with Ex. 12 richly harmonized in diatonic 

In the Bible Job's friends are not depicted as 'three wily hypo 
crites*. On the contrary we read Qob ii. 11-13): 

Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come 
upon him, they came every one from his own place: Eliphaz the 
Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite: for they 
had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him and 
to comfort him. 

And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they 
lifted up their voice and wept; and they rent everyone his mantle, and 
sprinkled dust upon their heads towards heaven. 

So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven 
nights and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was 
very great. 

Their sympathy seems genuine enough, and though Job lost 
his temper with their obstinate insistence that his sufferings must 
be punishments for his sins, they are ultimately reconciled to him 
(chap. 42). But in Blake's vision they are a 'Satan's Trinity of 
Accusers* and are represented in Plate X with accusing fingers 
pointing at him. In Vaughan Williams's music their entry is pre 
faced by a halt-bar of Satan's music, and the stage direction says 
specifically 'Satan introduces in turn Job's three comforters'. Now 


as Satan is Job's own lower nature, just as God is his spiritual self, 
the comforters are in fact personifications of Job's own sin of 
obstinate spiritual pride. Outwardly their arguments are fair and 
plausible but actually they are a form of self-deceit. 'Three wily 
hypocrites' therefore becomes an appropriate description. 

Now hypocrisy consists in seeming one thing and being an 
other; its essence therefore is ambiguity, and ambiguity is not 
difficult to symbolize in music. A drooping pathetic minor third 
sounds sympathetic; so for that matter does a drooping major 
third and either might represent true sympathy, but place one 
against the other and harmonize in triads and you have complete 
ambiguity and double dealing, which the oily tones of the saxo 
phone make unctuous and odious: 

Ex. 13. 

Andante dakroso 



Strings pizz. ^ ' ~~ ^i 

Clannet and Bassoon 

There is a middle section of more vigorous character where they 
become reproachful but they 'return to their gestures of pretended 
sympathy', till Job rises and curses God in another descending 
phrase, Ex. 14, bearing some relationship to Exx. 5 and 8, but with 
acrid harmony. It is symptomatic of the organic character of the 
work that all these phrases portraying Job's personality and actions 
have a family resemblance. Indeed, at a first glance it is easy to 
mistake them all as mere transformations of the same phrase, but 
the variations alike in intervals and rhythm are seen on closer 
scrutiny to amount to more than a 'transformation of theme*. 

Ex.14. T 

f\ ty. 


There is a baleful vision of Heaven now usurped by the host of 
Hell which gradually fades away to be succeeded by a violin solo 


of early morning freshness. This is the turning-point of the drama 
and the beginning of 

Scene VII 

'Ye are old and I am very 

Elihu s Dance of Youth and 

'Then the Lord answered Job.* 
Pavane of the Heavenly Host. 
Enter Elihu who is young and 
beautiful. Heaven opens again and 
shows God sitting on His Throne 
surrounded by the heavenly host. 

The flowing rhapsody of the unaccompanied violin settles down 
into an airy melody: 

Scene VI 

There enters Elihu who is 
young and beautiful. 'Ye are old 
and I am very young/ Job per 
ceives his sin. The Heavens then 
open, revealing Job's Spiritual Self 
again enthroned. 

Ex, 15. 

Andante tranguilh 

Two 8ves lower 

After Elihu's dance 'Heaven gradually shines behind the stars. 
Dim figures are seen dancing a solemn dance. As Heaven grows 
lighter, they are seen to be the Sons of the Morning dancing before 
God's throne' as in Blake's Plate XTV. (This is the stage direction.) 

The music of the Pavane consists of: 

Ex, 16. 

Andante con molo 


1 * P Lfff^ 

t "EJ iff 

Strings, Woodwind , Harps, Timpani 

a three-bar phrase which alternates and combines with a variant 
of Ex. 8. 

In the old instrumental suites pavanes were followed by gal- 
Hards. So here, and the next scene opens with a galliard, a quicker 
dance in a different rhythm. 


Scene VII 

Satan again appeals to Job's 
Godhead, claiming the victory, 
but is repelled and driven down 
by the Sons of the Morning. 
Job's household build an altar 
and worship with musical instru 
ments, while the Heavenly dance 

Scene VIII 

'All the Sons of God shouted 
for joy.' 

Galliard of the Sons of the 

'My servant Job shall pray for 

Altar Dance and heavenly Pavane. 

Satan appeals again to God but 
is driven down by the Sons of the 
Morning. Job and his household 
build an altar and worship God 
with musical instruments. The 
heavenly dance continues. 

The appearance of Satan to claim his victory over Job and God's 
denial and sentence of banishment upon him are depicted in eight 
bars of Satan's music (Ex. 6) and five bars of the music of Godhead 
(Ex. 8). Then the Sons of the Morning drive Satan down during 
the gaUiard on this sturdy tune: 

Ex. 17. 

Allegro pesante 



Strings fmarcato 

The scene changes from Heaven to Earth. Young men and 
women raise an altar and dance round it. The strings hold a wide 
spread chord of G minor (without the B flat) in its second inver 
sion, through which the oboes weave a tune: 

Ex. 18. 

Allegretto tranquillo 

P cantabiie 

to be joined presently, when Job rises to bless the altar, by Ex. 12 
in counterpoint with it. The heavenly dance begins again (Ex. 16), 
while the dance on earth continues (Ex. 18) and leads to a tableau 
over a tremendous cadence of clashing diatonic chords such as 
have been heard in a milder form pianissimo at the first disclosure 


of Heaven just before the Saraband. See Ex. 7 for the outline 
of it. 

Seme VIII Scene IX 

Job sits a humbled man in the 'So the Lord blessed the latter 
sunrise of restored prosperity, sur- end of Job more than his 
rounded by his family, upon beginning.' 
whom he bestows his blessing. Epilogue. 

Job, an old and humbled man, 
sits again surrounded by his 
family. He blesses his children, 

Ex. i is heard as the curtain goes up on the same scene as the 
opening. Job's friends come and give him presents. His three 
daughters enter. How they came to be restored to him is not made 
clear either in the ballet or in Bkke or even in the Bible, which 
simply states laconically (chapter xlii, v. 13) after a catalogue of 
his riches 'He had also seven sons and three daughters', and adds 
that they were the fairest women in the land. But the music fills 
away to a mellow tissue of sound, very full but very quiet, while 
the dancers group themselves as in Plates XIX and XX. The 
Epilogue is a recapitulation of the opening music including the 
descending triplet figure which belongs to the daughters of Job: 

The final cadence comes to rest on B flat, but the key feeling has 
been G minor. The horns hold a dominant pedal-point D up to 
within a dozen bars of the end. This resolves on to a softer pedal- 
point G held for three bars by the violas, and then almost imper 
ceptibly through some fluidly progressing harmony the music 
subsides on to a B flat held by double-basses and timpani. The 
actual chord of B flat is dekyed for another bar and is even then 
reached on a weak half-beat so as to make it as unobtrusive as 
possible. The instruments fade out one after the other till only the 
violoncellos and basses are holding their B flat niente. The counter 
point moves steadily in quavers till quite near the end producing 
chord progressions as it goes, but the fundamental harmony has 


been moving very slowly as already described, and though any 
thing like a conventional full close, however elaborately dis 
guised, is avoided, yet the sense of finality is complete. The balance 
of keys is not achieved by mechanical means, and B flat major, 
lying as it does on that slightly higher plane than G minor, is when 
so reached like the keel of the home-bound boat running its nose 
up on the shore. 

Riders to the Sea 

Wagner in his day made a great fuss about a distinction which 
he drew between opera and music-drama. Actually all opera is 
precisely music-drama and in its early days was called dramma per 
musica; it is from its nature a play carried on either in or with 
music. Wagner wished to cut clear of certain associations that had 
grown round the word 'opera', one such set of associations imply 
ing formal division into recitative, aria, and ensemble. This formal 
implication he specially wished to avoid and to substitute for it his 
unendliche Melodie and a symphonic style of writing for the 
orchestra, just as Vaughan Williams preferred to call the ballet Job 
a masque because of certain associations of the word 'ballet'. Such 
terminological preferences, though not in the last resort logically 
tenable, have this much justification: that they imply differences 
of emphasis; within, a composite art like opera, where to the 
normal opposition between words and tones there are added 
the complicating factors of plot, scenery, mime, and movement, 
the equilibrium between them will be struck at different points 
in different instances. The problem of the operatic composer is 
always to reconcile such divergent claims. The first and most 
fundamental of them is that of pace: drama moves normally at a 
rate faster than real life, it is carried on in dialogue uttered only a 
little slower than conversational speech, it develops by concentra 
tion; in music, on the other hand, the mere addition of tone to a 
spoken sentence in itself slows up the utterance, and the melodic 
line asserts musical claims that interfere with the normal speed and 


shape and rhythm of the words to which it is set, and music as 
such develops by expansion to such an extent that action has often 
to be held up on the stage in order to allow rime enough to the 
music to make its points in its own musical way. The history of 
opera is the tale of the different ways in which this equilibrium has 
been successfully struck, these competing claims reconciled. One 
way, that of German Singspiel and English comic opera, is to work 
on two planes alternately and break openly from speech into song, 
and vice versa. Next above this in point of musical saturation is the 
division into recitative and air; farther on comes the complete 
absorption of the text into music, as in Wagner and Puccini. 
Wagner thought that he was acting in defence of the verbal text 
in floating it, as it were, on a sea of orchestral sound, but in point 
of fact in his music-drama music has retained its position as the 
senior partner, and those who are keen to uphold the claims of the 
poem as well as that of dramatic verisimilitude may legitimately 
declare that in the upshot they get no better treatment from 
Wagner than from so 'operatic' a composer as Verdi. 

Now opera came into being at the Renaissance as the result of 
early experiments in the recitation of Greek tragedy. Aristotle, 
generalizing from the experience of the Greeks themselves in pre 
senting plays, mentions two features of tragedy, which we can 
recognize as necessary under the condition of their presentation in 
a large open-air theatre. Tragedy, he says, is the representation of 
a serious action which has a certain size and impressiveness 
(/jtifirjatg &paea>g anvobalaz xal jjueysQoz e%ovar]}, and it is pre 
sented with certain embellishments (fjdvo/j&vti) among which 
were the musical elements of rhythm and melody and whatever 
the Greeks meant by harmony (which was certainly not what we 
mean). This implies a kind of quasi-musical delivery intoning or 
recitative. But music in the full sense was also used in certain parts, 
notably in the chanting of the chorus who commented on the 
action in set pieces. The tone of the human speaking voice tends 
to change in pitch under pressure of emotion to drop when it is 
serious or impressive, to rise even to a scream when it is excited, 
and to do both under the conflicting interplay of changing 
emotions in a complicated situation. So again we reach recitative, 


deckmation, and rhapsody, all of which imply some sort of 
melodic line (jjk>) instead of the dry tones of ordinary speech. 
The Florentine experimenters of the sixteenth century, in trying 
to find the appropriate kind of recitative for the newly discovered 
classical dramas, hit on precisely the 'embellished' speech in which 
the voice spoke its words to notes of different pitch from which it 
could break at the intenser moments into song, as any ballad singer 
among the medieval minstrels could have told them. Here, in fact, 
was recitative and aria, and here was unendliche Melodie; here 
indeed was music-drama or opera. 

This same thing is what Vaughan Williams has done in Riders 
to the Sea. To increase the impressiveness and the emotional com 
pulsion of the original play of J. M. Synge he has assigned notes of 
definite pitch to all its lines. It is an opera in recitative, and the 
voice part never takes wing in song save perhaps at the consum 
mation of the tragedy, where Maurya's words rise on a curve of 
melody largamente over diatonic chords. Elsewhere the musician 
makes himself the servant and follower of the poet rather than 
leader and master. In this sense Riders to the Sea may claim to be 
music-drama. It is a word-for-word setting of a pky; the com 
poser has taken no melodic liberties but has been faithful to every 
vocal inflexion of the speaking voice, yet he has at the same time 
converted it from elocution into music. But for all his restraint he 
has done what only music can do crystallised its poignant 
emotions, heightened their expression and suffused it all with a 
tenderness that accomplishes for us that purge by pity (xd6apai 
dt? eteov} of which Aristotle spoke. 

The aesthetic justification of the parlando as opposed to the 
cantando style is to be found in the appropriateness of the method 
to the subject-matter. Synge's play is a tragedy in undertones. At 
its opening Nora and Cathleen converse in low voices to avoid 
rousing the old woman, and this subdued start sets the tone for the 
whole play. There is no place here for steady streams of tone or 
strong-winged flights of melody; all is broken muttered almost 
and Vaughan Williams's themes reproduce the sorrow-haunted 
atmosphere of the Irish cottage by the implacable sea in the down 
ward droop of their contour. Only after the final catastrophe, 


when the sea can do no more to hurt or harm these islanders, do 
the phrases reverse their trend and begin to rise. 1 

The method derives not from Wagner (or even Wolf) but from 
Mussorgsky, though the opera nearest akin to Riders to the Sea 
is Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande. Here we have a similarly subdued 
dialogue and a drier, less melodious recitation than we get in Boris 
Godunov. In Pelleas et Melisande the characters are shadowy almost 
to the point of unreality. In Sons Godunov they are real and solid. 
In Riders to the Sea they are real but oppressed and overwhelmed. 
The motives of the composer in each case are therefore alike in 
that they all three wish to reflect in music the natural intonations 
of speech but different in so far as the emotions to be conveyed 
are different. Mussorgsky aims at realistic portraiture, Debussy at 
the creation of people in a world of shadows. Vaughan Williams 
aims at a true presentation of real people (like Mussorgsky) and 
(like Debussy) at the creation of an enveloping atmosphere of 
half-tones. In dimensions, dramatic method, and layout for small 
orchestra and female chorus it shows a close kinship with Hoist's 

It is quite unlike anything else that he has done. Hugh the Drover 
is a pure romantic opera, Sir John in Love near akin to a folk-opera, 
The Poisoned Kiss, which was to follow, a pure comic opera, in 
form as well as subject. This is a tragic music-drama in one act. It 
was sketched in 1926 and finished in the following year, but was 
not published till 1936. It is lightly scored with only one each of 
the woodwind except that there is a second flute and the only 
clarinet is a bass clarinet; two horns and one trumpet are all the 
brass, and a limited number of strings (not more than two double 
basses and the rest in proportion) is prescribed; the percussion 
includes a Sea Machine. There is also a wordless chorus of female 
voices in four parts. The stage directions of the original play are 

1 That is broadly speaking. Maurya so constantly croons half to herself that her 
phrases usually begin with the rise of a third, and this initial rise influences the 
shape of her themes. Hartley speaks in level tones; the two girls, whose emotions 
are unstable, are less consistent but mostly follow the natural rise in pitch of the 
voice from the start of a sentence. It is not, however, the verbal phrases of which 
I am thinking but the accompanying orchestral themes which show a predomin 
antly downward trend. 


occasionally modified in the opera and a few sentences have been 

The scene is set in the kitchen of a cottage on an island off the 
west coast of Ireland, The daily business of the inhabitants must 
be carried on by sea, and the sea, as all seafarers know, takes its 
toll of human life. The sea is the unseen protagonist of this drama, 
and its ceaseless murmur, its swelling, the strident impact of rest 
less green water is heard at the outset: 


Lento moderate 
FL and Vlns. 
A fa) [ 

This is almost a leitmotive, though it is not always presented 
whole, as Wagner would do it, when the sound of the sea blows 
through the open door or is uppermost in the mind of the persons 
of the play. Sometimes only the bass (r) is heard, sometimes with 
rhythmic variations the drooping phrase of the upper part. 

When the curtain rises Cathleen (Soprano) is busy in the room 
and finally sits down to her spinning-wheel; the only music is a 
long bare line of melody supported by an occasional chord. The 
door opens and the sound of the sea is heard a version of Ex. i. 
Cathleen's younger sister Nora (Soprano} enters and asks 'Where 
is she?* 'She' is their mother Maurya (Contralto], who at the 
moment is lying down 'and maybe sleeping if she's able'. Nora 
produces a bundle from under her shawl. It contains 'a shirt and 
a plain stocking got off a drowned man in Donegal'. The question 
is: Was that drowned man their brother Michael, and could his 
body have been washed away so far north as Donegal? All the 
dialogue in which they debate this possibility and the advisability 



of telling their mother anything about the find is carried on to a 
descending phrase related to Ex. i but not used specifically again: 



But though this is not a leitmotive at all, it sets the shape for much 
of the closely related thematic material of which the opera is built. 
The next motif, however, recurs when either of the women refers 
to Michael's clean burial at sea and, as God is invoked when such 
thoughts are uttered, it carries with it a prayer: 

Via, and 'Cello 

The door blows open Ex. i is heard and Cathleen looks out: 
is the sea bad enough to stop Bartley (Baritone), now the only 
surviving brother, from crossing and taking the horses to Galway 
Fair? ( I won't stop him, 5 says Nora, and adds that 'Herself does 
be saying prayers half through the night and the Almighty God 
won't leave her destitute' (Ex. 3). Two other variants of the sea- 
motif, Ex. i, are used to describe the state of wind and tide, with 
wider intervals and more agitated rhythm: 




Via. and 
Cor Ang. in Sves 

Oboe aad Cor Aag. 
in Svts 

The girls debate whether to open the parcel and see if they can 
identify the clothes, but they are afraid they may be interrupted 
by the appearance of their mother. So they hide it for the moment 
in the peat-loft. Much of their smothered and hasty dialogue is set 
senza misura to light semiquavers, often without accompaniment, 
sometimes with a wisp of counterpoint. As soon as the bundle is 


hidden and Cathleen is descending the ladder from the loft 
Maurya appears and chides them for being extravagant with the 
fuel isn't there enough turf already down for the rest of the day? 
Maurya's principal motif is a phrase of which the significant and 
most persistent portion is the first three notes rising the interval of 
a third: 


fl Lento 

This is played by muted violins on its first appearance, which is 
when Nora says, 'She is moving about on the bed', but when 
Maurya actually appears it is heard more positively on the bassoon 
as it is subsequently in the opera. Maurya, sitting by the fire, begins 
to think about Bartley's journey to the mainland with the horses. 
Surely he will not go with the wind rising from the south-west? 
A new, long, trailing line of descending melody accompanies her 
reflections on her surviving son, but it seems to be less Bartley's 
motif than Maurya's reflections on the menfolk she has lost, for 
it occurs again first when she has the intuition that he will not 
return alive and again after his body has been brought in when it 
is sung by the keening women. 


Bardey himself comes in in a hurry; he wants a bit of rope for a 
halter. Maurya (Ex. 6) is unwilling for him to take it it may be 
wanted for burying Michael if he should be washed up. She tries 
also to deter him from going on his journey, and as she becomes 
more urgent in her pleading the orchestral texture thickens, the 
music becomes more rhythmic, and the pace poco piu mosso. 
Bardey ignores her words and turns to Cathleen with instructions 
what to do on the farm while he is away. Then he turns his 
attention to the voyage. Is the boat coming to the pier? The music 
for this is derived from Ex. I first the triads in the bass (c), and 
then a dotted-note phrase related to (V) . From these two is derived 


a progression of triads that is primarily but not invariably associ 
ated with, the drowning of Michael. 



Bartley goes, but Maurya does not give him her blessing; instead 
she cries out in despair that they will not see him again. The girls 
lose patience with the old woman and all her ill-omened words 
(allusion to Ex. 7). Wisely they find something for her to do. 
Bartley has gone off not only without his mother's blessing, but 
without his food, so Cathleen bids Maurya take the bread and 
intercept him at the well on his way down to the sea with the 
horses. A new movement begins in the bass, an insistent rotmd- 
and-round figure: 


Poco pm ntosso 

Fragments of this figure and variations of Ex. 8 appear up and 
down the score. Maurya takes a stick and hobbles off. This is the 
opportunity for Cathleen and Nora to examine the bundle. They 
conduct a quick conversation prefaced by Ex. 8, at first unaccom 
panied but subsequently against an undulating line of counterpoint. 
They open the bundle: 


So easily under the stress of emotion does the voice rise from 
parkndo to singing, from recitative to arioso; neither of the two 
sopranos (Cathleen and Nora) has touched a G before. They 
quickly relapse into recitative as they discuss the dropped stitches 


in the knitted stocking that confirm their fears. But Ex. 10 returns 
as Cathleen thinks of the pity of a great rower and fisher floating 
away in the far north and leaving nothing behind of himself but 
a bit of an old shirt and a plain stocking. Again this more impas 
sioned singing is broken off because they hear Maurya returning. 
A mere whispered chord supports their hasty conversation while 
they hide the bundle again. Ex. 6 announces Maurya' s entrance. 
She begins to keen. The girls question her, did she see Bardey, did 
she give him his bread, but all they can get out of her in reply is 
a cry that she has seen 'the fearfulest thing', an omen of the worst. 
Cathleen goes to the window to see if she can see Bardey. Yes, he 
is riding the mare, and the grey pony is following behind. She 
now presses her mother to tell them what it is she has seen. 
Maurya's vision is accompanied by consecutive 6/4 chords. She 
declares she has seen Michael riding behind Bardey, and we hear 
the triads of Ex. 3. She tells her story in greater detail chords of 
the 6/4 again : Bardey came first, and something choked the words 
in her throat when she tried to give him the blessing she had with 
held in the cottage, and then on the grey pony she beheld Michael 
with fine clothes upon him and new shoes on his feet. Cathleen 
now begins to keen and in her anguish she touches G sharp. The 
orchestra plays loud chords, swaying chords of the sixth in the 
dotted rhythm that has been so prominent throughout. 

Maurya now begins a long solo over a new figure that is 
extensively used in combination with a derivative of Ex. 7 note 
that it begins with Maurya's characteristic rising third. 


FI ^^ 

<BartIey will be 

lost now) 


and Sirs, p 

-if L 

She rehearses the number of her sons and their deaths for she 
regards Bardey as already lost. The sound of the chorus is heard 
for the first time, off stage, keening in the distance. There is a 
momentary interruption as Cathleen and Nora catch its sound 
and hear a cry from the shore. Maurya resumes, and the chorus 


increases from two to four parts, while the orchestra plays Ex. i (c), 
the groundbass of the sea; to that is soon added (a), and when 
Maurya relates how the dripping body of her son Patch was 
brought home the first four bars of Ex. i are reproduced as they 
were first heard. 

The door opens and old women come in to keen. The score is 
now dominated by the figure 

Via. and Fag.- 

which in one form or another constantly recurs till the end of the 
opera. The action quickens, though the dialogue continues at the 
same steady rate of declamation over Ex. 12. The girls tell 
Maurya about Michael and hand her the bundle of his clothes as 
proof that he has been found, and the old women tell the girls 
that what they see approaching is a cortege bearing the body of 
Bartley who was knocked over into the sea by the grey pony and 
carried out to the rocks by the surf. The body is brought in and 
laid on the table: Maurya goes to its head and begins, 'They are 
all gone now and there isn't anything more the sea can do for me/ 
The chorus commences to keen over Ex. i. She takes holy water 
to a solemn progression consisting of superimposed triads, Ex. 13 
(a); the tonality is poised between C sharp minor and E major as 
Maurya reaches the ultimate calm of stoical resignation, Ex. 13 (b) 
and (c): 


This becomes arioso in spite of the integections of Cathleen and 
Nora, who continue in the same slow sonorous vein, remarking to 
each other that their mother is getting old and broken. Maurya 
herself, however, breaks off with free declamation as she passes 
from C sharp into F minor. When she reverts to sustained singing 
for her prayer for the souls of all alive, the key becomes a clear E 
major, and the accompaniment is like the sustained chords of an 
organ. The keeners have a passage poco animato before Maurya 
speaks again of Michael and Bartley. The keeners sing phrases of 
Ex. 7, until the signature once more changes to four sharps and 
Ex. 13 (c) is heard against Maurya's last words: 'No man at all can 
be living for ever, and we must be satisfied.' The stage darkens but 
a gust of wind blows open the door and the sea is heard again 
(Ex. i). A solo soprano voice is heard offstage as the rays of the 
setting sun shine in through the door. The voice sings two strands 
of tune compounded of many of the figures that have been heard 
thedotted-note figure and derivatives from Exx. 7 and 9 while 
the orchestra sustains and augments a sequence of chords taken 
from Ex. 13, but now smoothed out in rhythm so as to come to a 
standstill on an almost inaudible chord of E as the stage becomes 
quite dark. 

The Poisoned Kiss 

The Poisoned Kiss was composed during 1927-8, but had to 
wait several years before it was produced on any stage. Finally, 
after a certain amount of revision, in which some numbers were 
scrapped and others added, it was put on by a company consisting 
mainly of professionals but dependent for its staffing on an 
organization of amateurs such as has been responsible for a great 
many of the interesting operatic enterprises in this country. 
Oxford and Cambridge have both been forward in producing 
such operas as our various operatic organizations could hardly be 
expected to undertake with any hope of support from their 
respective publics. 

It was appropriate that The Poisoned Kiss should have its first 
performance (on 12 May 1936) at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge, 


the composer being a Cambridge man he is an honorary fellow 
of Trinity and the Cambridge 'syndicate' of amateurs, local 
professionals, and imported soloists could be relied on to tackle 
a comic opera in a spirit of robust good humour. It is a comic 
opera in the strict sense of a stage piece in which spoken dialogue 
alternates with separate musical 'numbers'. Its character, however, 
is more closely defined in its official description as a romantic 
extravaganza. The two elements, the romance and the extravag 
ance, the constant juxtaposition of magic and modernism, the 
lyrical music and the witty words, set up an unstable equilibrium 
that adds piquancy to both. The libretto has, however, been 
adversely criticized, not for its romance but for its extravagance. 
It must therefore be scrutinized, though it is well to bear in mind 
that the author was writing not for cold print but for the theatre, 
and that in the theatre her shafts and sallies, her witticisms and 
topical allusions found their mark and raised their laughs at once. 
The libretto was founded, as a note prefixed to the score in 
forms us, on incidents taken from a story called 'The Poison Maid* 
which is found in Richard Garnett's collection of short stories 
called The Twilight of the Gods. (But it is a far cry from Gotter- 
dammerung to The Poisoned Kissl] Garnett himself was apparently 
indebted to another short story, 'Rapaccini's Daughter*, in 
Nathaniel Hawthorne's Mosses from an Old Manse, though accord 
ing to a note in the 1888 edition of Garnett he wrote his story in 
'entire fbrgetfulness' of Hawthorne's tale 'which nevertheless he 
had certainly read'. It may very weH be that what alienated the 
critics of Muss Evelyn Sharp's libretto was precisely the simple 
innocence of a nineteenth-century story, garnished though it was 
by satire of contemporary events and fashions such as have 
afforded matter for comic treatment on the stage from Aristo 
phanes onwards, and in music from The Beggars Opera and Mozart 
to Gilbert and Sullivan and Coq d'Or. We are not amused, how 
ever, by childish fantasies today. There has been a change of taste. 
Kction is earnest, and when it is not dealing with imaginary crime 
it portrays slices of real life, and whether it is proletarian life or 
higtit life that is the novelist's subject, his method is realistic. 
Victorian fiction, we say, is mere escapism. Love's young dream 


is a dream no longer but a compensatory erotic fantasy, and if we 
wish to suspend the laws of causation as we know them we do not 
retreat into the magic of the past but into the brave new worlds 
of Wellsian speculation. There is, in fact, a certain impatience 
with the machinery of magic, and if in reading Garnett's 'The 
Poison Maid' one smiles at the fanciful twist of the story, there is 
also in our smile a trace of superciliousness. It may be conceded, 
too, that in the second act of the opera the magic machinery, as 
operated by the somewhat clumsy antics of Hob, Gob, and Lob, 
whose function it is to precipitate the fatal kiss, creaks a little and 
magical machines ought not to creak. It may also be admitted that 
in some instances the author's usually felicitous touch in setting a 
piece of modern slang in sharp antithesis to some piece of high- 
falutin magic fumbles for a moment over some topical allusion 
that seems out of the picture. Hob, Gob, and Lob disguised as 
journalists afford an example, which is in marked contrast to the 
extremely funny antithesis to be found in the lines of Dipsacus, the 
professional magician and father of the bride. But Hob, Gob, and 
Lob are necessary not merely for musical reasons but for the 
symmetry of the plot. 

This symmetry, as in Cost fan tutte, is an element of strength in 
a well-constructed libretto. The book, whether you like it or not, 
is so laid out in three acts as to give each character opportunity to 
define him or herself in set solos or in ensemble numbers, while 
the opposing forces of Magician versus Empress are disposed so as 
to give a different balance in each act. Thus Dipsacus leads off the 
first act and his influence dominates it. The two lovers, Amaryllus 
(lyrical tenor), the Empress's son, and Tormentilk (soprano), the 
Magician's daughter, have the second act almost to themselves, 
except for the undercurrent provided throughout by the love 
affair between their two respective servants Gallanthus, light tenor 
and a bit of a clown, and Angelica, soubrette with all the char 
acteristics of a chit a ready tongue, an interest in men, and a 
passion for romance in story or cinema. The Empress Persicaria 
(contralto) descends upon the last act and extricates the plot from 
the crisis which it reached when the poisoned kiss was exchanged 
between the two lovers at the end of Act II. Note the pretty idea 


of conferring botanical names on all the principal creatures of this 
fantasy. Hob, Gob, and Lob are the personal attendants of 
Dipsacus; their opposite numbers attached to the Empress's suite 
are three Mediums who pursue the psychic business that was 
fashionable in Bond Street at one time. These six persons of the 
play are cast according to vocal type and give the composer scope 
for trios and sextets. In the end each character is paired off with 
his opposite number, and after a momentary flash from the 
Empress "Is this a night club? What means this disgraceful scene 
in my palace?' who has forgotten the force of her own example 
in burying the hatchet and reuniting herself with Dipsacus, all the 
principals and chorus sing a grand ensemble 'alia hornpipe* to the 

Love has conquered, 

Hearts united, 

Wrong is righted 

Won by capture 

Thrilled with rapture 

Wedding guests are all invited; 

Do not tarry, 

Come and marry, 

Love triumphant, 

Hearts united. 

This jingling verse is in the ordinary comic opera vein and the 
hornpipe measure ties up, as a concerted finale should, all the 
threads of the opera. But the theme of love triumphant is more 
than the skeleton of a piece for the theatre and it lifts the lovers' 
music into true romance. For the kernel of the opera is the con 
quest of hate by love. Tormentilk has been brought up on poisons 
in order that her first kiss shall destroy the man to whom she gives 
it. Dipsacus has kept her apart from the world in order that he may 
choose her victim for her, the son of the Empress. His plot 
succeeds up to the point of the exchange of the fetal kiss and then 
miscarries because true love is more potent than poison. Here is 
the core of romance at the heart of the extravaganza. In this out 
line the libretto follows closely the plot of Garnett's story. The 
root idea of a poisonous maiden comes from Hawthorne; Garnett 


embodied it in the idea of revenge worked by the parent of one 
lover upon the parent of the other; Miss Sharp created all the 
subsidiary characters, put the story into dramatic form and served 
it up in a modern, not to say topical, setting. She was peculiarly 
well qualified to discharge this task of a new W. S. Gilbert, for her 
literary career has been divided between the writing of imagina 
tive stories she was a contributor to the famous Yellow Book 
and journalism for the Manchester Guardian and other papers. Her 
sympathies are at the opposite pole from Gilbert's, but she has his 
way of touching off a fashionable foible with a shaft of satire, and 
in so far as a poisonous bride is an antinomy her subject leaves her 
with a Gilbertian situation to deal with. But the element of 
romance differentiates her libretto from anything that Gilbert ever 
did outside The Yeomen of the Guard, in which human feeling suc 
ceeded in breaking through. The sister of Cecil Sharp, with whom 
he was closely associated in the folk-music revival, was a natural 
collaborator for Dr. Vaughan Williams; the writer of fairy tales 
and children's books has a light touch for handling magic; the 
wife of the late H. W. Nevinson and herself a politician from the 
days of "Women's Suffrage onwards has the salt of satire, so potent 
for keeping comedy sweet, in her literary economy. A libretto 
from such a writer is no colourless theatrical construction; it is 
playful, it is strongly knit, and it is witty. English people do not 
like wit; they prefer humour, of which they are less afraid, and it 
is a tenable criticism to urge that the comedy in the composer's 
music is more often humorous than witty. But there are a 
number of clever witticisms in the score, notably in the music for 
the Mediums and the deliberately sentimental duet put into the 
mouths of Dipsacus and Persicaria in the last act (c Ex. 19). But 
no comic opera is the worse for being both witty and humorous 
at once. In the last resort a composer is responsible for any libretto 
he chooses to set, and that Dr. Vaughan Williams found this one 
inspiring is apparent from the music it elicited from him. 

The opera however has not had the success that might have 
been expected with a public that likes comic opera. The music is 
entrancing, but the plot seems to lumber in spite of the witty 
sallies of the libretto which come up with surprisingly topical 


freshness. I have only heard one performance that came off 
exactly as its authors intended it should by the students of the 
Royal Academy of Music in 1947. 

The Overture contains a number of the chief airs in the opera 
which are loosely strung together. The composer directs that it be 
played with the house lights up so that it shall not hush all conversa 
tion in the auditorium and so produce too reverent an approach to 
the absurdities that are to fofiow. This subconscious assimilation 
of music is in point of fact the best preparation for an evening in 
which effortless entertainment and solid artistic pleasure are to be 
combined. For when the various tunes occur in their dramatic 
context they are at once fresh and familiar to the mind of the 
listener. Fresh because he has not in any degree learned them, 
familiar because they have in fact already fallen upon his ear. 
These tunes are in themselves fresh enough in all conscience and, 
though they cannot be called familiar, they are at any rate cast in 
the old lyrical manner derived from English folk-song and English 
polyphony which the composer had long before evolved for his 
own personal and distinctive utterance. We have never heard them 
before but their idiom is encouragingly familiar. 

Act I 

The scene is the heart of a remote forest. Dipsacus's house is 
discernible in the darkness, and we know what it is because it bears 
the sign: Dipsacus: Necromancer, Consultations Daily. Another sign 
warning us what to expect bears the legend 'Beware of tie 
Serpent', The business in hand is to get the sun to rise. Forest 
creatures utter deterrent noises over grisly forest music a modern 
Wolf's Glen in feet without diminished sevenths but with plenty 
of chromaticism. There is a little trouble about the sunrise but 
Dipsacus comes out, drives off the nocturnal chorus with a gesture 
and ushers in the dawn. Gallanthus next appears in a nervy condi 
tion after a night spent in this spell-bound wood. The least noise 
and plenty of noises are provided frightens hi and his music 
goes backwards and forwards between 2/4 and 4/4 time. During 
his agitation the sun rises and a window in Dipsacus's house is 


flung open; Angelica the servant maid appears at it, heralded by 
an arpeggio of the subdominant ninth from the harp. The scena 
which follows may be said to be in G. The signature oscillates 
between one sharp and two flats, but the G major of Angelica's 
aubade is strongly tinged with E minor. After the harp a flute 
cadenza and a little tune create a musical atmosphere something 
like that of the beginning of The Lark Ascending: 


Andante con moto 

r """ 

r T r r r r r T r ^^Lu 

(a) Clarinet 



i r i 

This is daybreak right enough, and Angelica soon comes out of 
thehouse with the early morning appurtenances of pail and broom. 
The note of deliberate bathos, to be sounded time and again 
through the opera, is struck at once. 

Day is dawning, 
Folks are yawning. 

This couplet is sung to a melody derived from (a), the continua 
tion of her laborious salute to the dawn makes use of (fc) . She soon 
breaks off like any normally constituted servant-maid, before the 
species disappeared, into a grumble about her "place* in light 
recitative, this, and finally she encounters the dithering GaUanthus. 
They exchange information and compare notes in spoken dia 
logue. They get on fine. Soon there is talk of love and they break 
into a duet It's really time', a verse each to a simple ballad melody 
of sixteen bars, and then a verse together. The melody is only 
simple in sound. It is not susceptible of analysis according to any 
formula of a I a, but the constituent phrases make allusions to each 
other's intervals and patterns and so yield a strong organic tune. 
The affair which is progressing so smoothly and rapidly is inter 
rupted by the appearance of three hobgoblins, Hob, Gob, and 
Lob, and the forest chorus of witches, goblins, and animals. They 


complain of Dipsacus and their terms of service. When the 
magician himself appears he upbraids them for slackness on this, 
the day of days, when his long cherished plans of revenge are 
about to mature. He includes Angelica in his strictures. To her 
excuse that she has not before been in service with a necromancer 
he replies in a patter song Tm a Sorcerer Bold', in which she 
insinuates some comments, as do the Hobgoblins. The rhythm 
of the song matches the dance with which its verses alternate: 

f Strings and Flute 

The opera is thus gathering speed and variety of melody. A duet 
for Angelica and Dipsacus follows, but since it too consists of 
vivacious patter its inclusion is optional. 

The time has now come to introduce the hero. Amaryllus and 
Gallanthus walk on to the stage vacated for them and straightway 
begin a duet on the Prince's susceptibility to female charm: 


A Alleg TO moderate 


It's true I'm in - clined to be fick - le But a man is a 

Q i . I 

j> r r r ir r Mr r j K I 

prig who would stick - le at chang - ing his fate. 

Note how the caesura in the fourth bar of a ten-bar phrase varies 
the balance without upsetting it. This is matched in Gallanthus's 
retort (a bright G major against this Aeolian modal E) by a three 
fold sequence in the enumeration of Amaryllus's former flames. 
But this time it is the real thing, declares Amaryllus in dialogue, 
for he has seen Tormentilla and believing her to be in danger has 
struck her pet cobra, not yet realizing that young lady's abnormal 
tastes. At this moment Tormentilla enters carrying her pet and in 
a fury with the aggressor who has hit it. With one woman in a 
temper and one young man in love, the other woman ready to 
take advantage of anything that may develop and her lover 
dithering with excitement, die situation is ready for a quartet of 
conflicting emotions (two sopranos and two tenors). This changes 


half-way through from a quasi-patter (allegro vivace) to a lullaby 
(andantino) when Tormentilk sits down and rocks the injured 
cobra to sleep. Here we feel the full force of the antithesis between 
innocence and poison that is the dominating idea of Hawthorne's 
tale. Torm.enti.11a sings: 


Lull - a - by love - ly ser - pent of mine, 


Sub - tie thy dreamSjfuII of 



plea-sures ma-lign 

Then as the cobra fells into a peaceful doze she asks for a soothing 
drink for herself (vitriol or cyanide) and the others join in over 
this tonic pedal and narcotic harmony. The words, however, are 
not in the least like soothing syrup: Tormentilla continues the 
lullaby and Amaryllus asks to be allowed to join in, but Angelica 
says, 1 wish she'd stop that row and drink it up', while Gallanthus's 
contribution to the queer symposium is 6 O damn his eyes, why 
can't he stop his blasted lullaby'. The quartet finishes more anim 
atedly with a discussion of the poison cup. 

The plot has now to thicken and the two principals to fall 
properly in love. So we have a duet. As this is probably the 
loveliest song-melody in the opera it must be quoted. There are 
the usual three verses one each and one together. The two sets of 
words under the tune show that bitter-sweetness is still the pre 
valent and piquant flavour. 


Andante sostenmo (sentimentally) 

AMARYLLus Blue lark -spur in a gar - den, 
TORMENTILLA Black hen-bane in a thick - et, 

White clouds in 
Slime of the 

sum - mer 
ser - pern's 



sea- gull 

paus - ing 
cob - ra 

wing - stretch 'd The love in 
up - reared. The sting in 




man's eyes, 
- pion's tail, 

These Things 
These things 

A - ma -ryl-Ius' 
Tor -men -til -la's 





do bring con - tin 

do bring con - tin 

al de - light., 

al de - light 

After another optional song by Amaryllus on the subject of his 
previous infatuations there is a dramatic number in which things 
of various sorts happen. Dipsacus gets to work on his magic 
business, raises a storm, and keeps the lovers apart by a spell. 
Tormentilla wants to know of her father what all the fuss is about. 
Dipsacus then explains the story of his early love and his plot for 
vengeance by means of the poison kiss which Tormentilla is to 
deliver on the son of his enemy. Pompous as ever, Dipsacus 
delivers himself in a mock eighteenth-century ballad in B minor 
(except that the leading notes are all flat). Tormentilla listens with 
growing understanding and hardening resistance. She declines to 
be a party to the plan: 'Why should I sky this innocent boy for 
the sake of your two-penny half-penny love affair twenty years 
ago?' There is an optional trio in patter (presto) in which father 
and daughter rage furiously across the plebeian comments of 
Angelica. Tormentilla now faces the fact that she must on no 
account see Amaryllus again and laments her predicament in a 
wistful song, *Oh, who would be unhappy me? 5 This is as detach 
able as, and no more unintelligible in its allusions to the context 
than, many a Sullivan air from the Savoy operas, Yum-Yum's 
'The sun and I', for instance, in The Mikado. 

Tormentilla's relations with her father are now so strained that 
parting is inevitable. The two girls look forward to exchanging 
the solitudes of the forest for the metropolitan life of Golden 
Town. Angelica is prepared to finance their exile by taking with 
her the philosopher's stone from the dining-room mantelpiece, 
which she has had to dust morning by morning this detail comes 
from Garnett. She rubs it and straightway summons milliners and 
messengers with all such requisites for travel as are to be found in 
Fortnum and Mason's shop. These milliners and messengers fill up 


the stage for the final scene in which Dipsacus pronounces an order 
of banishment upon them in a resounding spell, which is taken up 
by all and brings down the curtain. 

Act II 

The second act takes us to Tormentilla's lodgings in Golden 
Town, which is according to the stage directions either an Eastern 
or a Cubist city. It is sunset, and there is a short orchestral intro 
duction in keeping with the sensuous bewitchment of the time and 

This music reappears later in the act when Amaryllus, drawn by 
the spells of Hob, Gob, and Lob, approaches Tormentilla's dwell 
ing. But at the moment the mood is not pursued. On the contrary 
we have a Flower Girls' chorus, which inevitably seems like a sly 
allusion to the Flower Maidens in Parsifal, the Bridesmaids in 
Der Freischutz, and more faintly the Bridesmaids in Ruddigore. 
It is in fact, however, a parody of musical comedy, and a footnote 
in the score directs that the scene be played in an exaggeration 
of that style which it defines as 'with perfunctory charm'. The 
music begins 



_f\ 31 jf.CIarioec 




but changes to a luscious D flat major for tke entry of the voices, 

which sing 

Here we come, our hands full laden, 
Bringing gifts to charm a maiden, 

and then adding in an aside for the sake of the bathos 

(Not for fun, if she but knew it, 
Only 'cause we're paid to do it.) 

This number leads straight into a waltz song for Angelica and 
chorus. The waltz is ingeniously constructed with alternations of 
phrases that vary in length the first two are respectively of six 
and five bars while inside the phrases groups of two crotchets set 
up a cross-rhythm across the bar-line, or alternatively there is a 
snatch of tune in ordinary lum-tum-tum waltz rhythm. And there 
is syncopation both the ordinary sort and the jazz kind in which 
the accent falls on the subdivisions of a beat. Only an extended 
example could show the use of all these devices but a few bars will 
indicate some of them: 

rt Allegro 



fill the whole 




at - tic 

> *. ,x^ 


jase - Tuent, 



K^r r- 
p j 

1 ' ' 

i J i 

t u 



_F- ' 

to say 

no - filing 

_^ X 


S J j J 

i J 

. J. s - 

J 1 J 

Note how beside the alternation of two-beat and three-beat 
rhythm the voice places its caesura a bar later than the accompani 
ment, where it occurs normally at exactly half-way through an 
ordinary eight-bar phrase. Actually that eight-bar phrase avoids a 
formal cadence yet contrives to modulate to D minor while 


extending the sentence without a pause for another nine bars. The 
music glides along effortlessly, but it is full of rhythmic intricacies. 

Here, then, is Tormentilk installed with Angelica in attendance 
to answer the bell to innumerable admirers who have been 
attracted by the fame of her beauty. But Hob, Gob, and Lob now 
appear in their usual compound time. Their purpose is to discover 
her whereabouts and to lure the young prince to her and get him 
poisoned by her kiss. They propose to disguise themselves as 
journalists to gain admission this is the first piece of spoken 
dialogue in the act up to this point. They are, however, compelled 
to disappear by Gallanthus ringing the house-bell and Angelica 
opening the door to him. Gallanthus is the bearer of a bouquet 
from his master. The dialogue of these two, in which the latest 
developments of the plot appear and their own love-affair is car 
ried forward, is interrupted by a lively little duet between them, 
in which the time oscillates between 6/8 and 2/4 and the repartee 
comes pat without a quaver's breathing space. 

A new turn is given to the situation by the appearance of the 
Mediums bearing a box of poisoned chocolates from the Empress, 
who has divined from her crystal gazing that Tormentilla's beauty 
may endanger her son. (Tormentilla's own comment on this 
possibility when jealousy is ascribed by Angelica to Persicaria is 
'Really, Angelica, the Oedipus complex doesn't amuse me, even 
in an Empress'.) This is the first appearance of what one may call 
the opposition half-way through the second act. So they have a 
very distinctive trio specially coloured by the substitution of the 
cor anglais for the oboe; Ex. 9 gives its characteristic flavour: 

E*' 9- Andanie dofaroso ^ ' -x. 



; m. m ' ^ tf m . i ; i 

ad Cor Anglais \^* 

Third Medium If you want to es -capefrom the te - di -um, 


Thek message and thek gift delivered, the Mediums depart. They 
are not quite sure whether 'to go by the door or just evanesce'. 
Thek place is taken by Hob, Gob, and Lob disguised respectively 
as a cricketer, a boxer, and a convict. The author's satke on the 
gutter press somehow misses fire; perhaps dog should not eat dog 
nor journalists guy thek own calling. At the end of thek trio the 
time is ripe for the appearance of Tormentilla, who is called on by 
a fanfare containing a false relation very typical of the composer's 

Ex. 10. 

Tprs and Horns 

and by the singing of the chorus off stage the first piece of 
choral music in the act. 

Tormentilla has two songs, both of them wistful in character 
like her song 'Oh, who would be unhappy me?' in Act I. The 
second song 'There was a time' leads on into a duet that is a 
nocturne-cum-lullaby in the usual three verses, which may be 
compared with the Snake lullaby in the first act. 

Ex. 11. 

n$r*~" i J 

. J J |J J :*= 

~i rd d~~r 

. p^ 


TOR. Wear - i 

- ly I go to rest 


Wear - y, wear-y, \ 

f ^ J - r Cr 

irear-i - Iv 


ANG. Maids to 

slum-ber tarry -ing go, 

Tar - ry, tar - ry, 

tar- rv- ing 

*> . J 

II* f f \ 

Flute, Strings and Harp 

Tormentilla goes off to bed and Angelica puts out the lights. Ex. 6 
is now heard again and is followed by Ex. 13 below (differently 
scored). Amaryllus enters guided by the mysterious voice en 
gineered by Hob, Gob, and Lob. Voices that fill the enchanted air 
rouse Angelica, who comes out on to the gallery with a lantern in 
her hand, and we have an ensemble between her, the Prince, and 
the Hobgoblins, the sort of thing that happens in the fourth act 
of Figaro in which people talk at cross purposes in the dark. The 
Hobgoblins are confident that the poisoned kiss is on the point of 
destroying Amaryllus. Not, however, before he has unburdened 


his heart of a heavenly serenade. This lovely melody begins to 
raise the temperature from comedy to pure romance, though 
actually it is in simple song form. But not in the simple ternary 
form that goes by that name in text-books, for Vaughan Williams's 
song-melodies, although derived ultimately from English folk 
song, do not follow simple formulae but rather grow organically 
out of their first phrase. This particular song happens, however, to 
be unified by a recurring though varied phrase: 

Ex. 12. 

f] U 

'4 J IJ^" \ J 

For the third verse there is a momentary change of key to a more 
intense E major in which the tune is played by the orchestra while 
the voice sings a counterpoint to it. The song leads straight into a 
duet. At the moment when passion is rising to its climax Tor- 
mentilla remembers that she must on no account kiss her lover, 
not because she knows who he is she still believes he is the simple 
goatherd he mendaciously declared himself to be at their first 
meeting but because her integrity will not allow her to hurt any 
honest man. So the music breaks off, and when it sounds again it is 
the enchantment music that we hear: 

Ex. 13. 

This, with voices singing in the background, is more than the 
lovers can resist, and they launch on a great love duet which 
reminds one of 'See the chariot at hand' in Sir John in Love: 

Ex. 11. 

Con fuoco 



He kisses her and the Hobgoblins shout "Tis done, the deed is 
done'. TormentiUa starts up with a scream as she realizes what 
it is that has been done. She flings herself on her knees beside 
Amaryllus, who gradually becomes unconscious, only rousing, as 
characters in operas always do, to sing as his farewell a snatch from 
his serenade. The curtain comes down on the senseless lovers with 
the Hobgoblins hovering round like birds of ill omen and only 
Angelica and Gallanthus to lament 'Too late, too late it is their 
fate*. And from far off comes the sound of voices behind the scenes 
pianissimo but insistent 

The poison kiss has been their doom. 

Art III 

The third act begins with a waltz, which is immediately 
followed by a vocal tango for the three Mediums. The Finale 
is in hornpipe rhythm, the sextet in which the Hobgoblins and 
Mediums decide to commit the (by then) prevailing practice of 
matrimony is in 'tempo di valse', and the introductory orchestral 
waltz is repeated for a colloquy between the Empress and her 
Mediums. So that the last act, in which the plot has its tangles 
straightened out, becomes positively giddy with dance tunes. The 
waltz which is associated with the Empress Persicaria, to whose 
boudoir, studio, laboratory, or whatever the chamber is called in 
which magic is practised, the action of the play is now transferred, 
is simpler and rhythmically more straightforward than Angelica's 
waltz in the previous act (Ex. 8): 

Ex. 15. 

? flic 

* Strings, V 
P Grazioso 

food-wind and Horns 

Clarinets and Strings pizz. 

col arpa 

^ Ur*U'f 

- HjS Mj, f Hj a ^ lj=p= 

chough it may be noted that the bar rhythms run not 4, 8, 16, 24, 
but 3, 6, 10, 21. 


The Mediums are discovered at the domestic duties to which 
their mistress turns them on when they are not engaged in crystal- 
gazing or otherwise seeking rapport with the unknowable. Their 
tango must be indicated: 

Ex. 16. 

Tempo di tango 
Molto moderate 
, | Clar. Horn and Str. 

- - iJTj-j, 


, LJ 4 i P 

Be -hold. our mys tic 
: P , 

*. 1T H * e- 

Trb. and Timp. 
Str. and Harp 

add Flutes 

ex-er-cis - es, Ca-ba - lis - tic me-dium-is 



col Tpt. and Trb. 



After this they discuss the news in dialogue until the Empress 
sweeps on to the stage driving before her a little old physician, 
who tries to tell her that her son, in spite of the traces of every 
known poison on him, has completely resisted their effects but is 
suffering from cardiac affection, or in other words love sickness 
for Tormentilla. The Empress is distracted and looks to her crystal 
for help. But she does not like what she sees in it and her first song, 
in which she is echoed by the Mediums, shows her rampaging in 
chromatics and a brisk duple rhythm. What she has seen in her 
crystal is the figure of Dipsacus, 'the man I parted from twenty 
years ago'. A musical colloquy follows in which Dipsacus and 
his crew acclaim their day of vengeance while the Empress makes 
disparaging remarks. To her Mediums after the dark vision 
has vanished the Empress recounts her former association with 
Dipsacus and waxes so sentimental in doing so that she falls into 
a ballad on the subject 'When I was young'. This shows quite a 
different side of her character and prepares the way for the much 
more sentimental duet which she presently sings with Dipsacus 
(see Ex. 19 below). The scene is rounded off by the waltz (Ex. 15) 


in which the Empress dismisses her Mediums for the moment. 
They therefore 'evanesce', their favourite way of making an exit. 
The next scene consists of spoken dialogue in which the business 
of getting the Empress and TormentiUa together is managed by 
the intervention of Gallanthus and Angelica, who is summoned by 
the Empress and comes up suddenly through the floor powdering 
her nose. TormentiUa is similarly summoned by the Empress and 
their wrangle is concluded with the honours to Tormentilla: 

Empress. You are a very astute and objectionable young woman. 
Tor. (cheerfully). Oh, no only a young woman who is fighting for her 

Emp. You love my son? You loved him when you thought him a 

Tor. To distraction. 

Emp. (hopefully). Enough to give him up? 
Tor. Enough to refuse to give him up. 
Emp. But if it's for his happiness? 
Tor. That is rank, old-fashioned sentiment and you know it. 

So the Empress surrenders in a splendid song 'Love breaks all 

A . Andante ^* ^ 

Love breaks all rules and spoUs our lit -tie games En-thrones the hum -ble, 

rt T ,_ 

scorn -ing 

a tune at once imperial and romantic not sentimental just now. 
She has not yet finished, however. She invokes the presence of 
Dipsacus in a vigorous aria supported by the hidden chorus of 
forest creatures; in itself it is not particularly interesting music, but 
it fits the situation and there is an optional chorus available for 
Dipsacus's Hobgoblins when it is desired to make the chorus a 
feature of the production. Dipsacus appears with the remark, 'You 
did that rather well, Persicaria, considering it's twenty years since 
I taught you that invocation.' Dipsacus and Persicaria now fence 
for victory over each other, but it begins to appear that the forces 


behind their rival magics are love and hate and the Empress has 
already learned that love is the stronger. However, Dipsacus has 
to be convinced that Amaryllus is not dead for all the poisonous 
power of the kiss, so the Empress conjures a vision of the lovers 
gazing into each other's eyes. When it is first heard their love 
music has still the distortion of magic in its augmented intervals: 

Ex. IS. 

Andante con mow 

Horn and Sir. 

but presently it changes to honest triads honestly in G major, and 
then it tears at one's heart strings. Is there no limit to the emotional 
power of the common chord? It hardly seems necessary to invent 
a twelve-note scale and a dodecaphonic chord when anything so 
fresh and lovely can be extracted by triads moving serenely in 
parallel motion. 

Dipsacus realizes that he is beaten. 'Cheer up/ says the Empress, 
Sve are both beaten by Youth', and she reveals that she had taken 
the precautionary measure of feeding her son on antidotes. Talk 
of the younger generation inclines their elders to sentimental 
reminiscence. So they indulge in an orgy of it in a duet. 'Senti 
mental* is usually in music a synonym for falsity or excess or other 
noxious quality. Will Vaughan Williams therefore give us a really 
bad sentimental tune? He does and he does not. Here is a 
pedestrian melody: 

Ex. 19. 

Andante s&mplice 
p sostenuto 

J* i J J J J J ~3 i J' j J~i~] r} I 

Can you, can you re - mem - ber the days when first we met ? The 
games weplay'd, The love we mads, when first we met, when first we met. 

Its sentimental features, the reiterated A and the drop to the D, are 
exaggerated, But it is no ordinary vulgar tune: its phrase length is 


six bars not eight, its key is ambiguous, F major inclining to 
D minor with an excursion to D major in the middle. Note, too, 
how the component phrases are of different lengths and stresses, 
quite unlike the regular formations of the banal ballads which 
the tune is aping, rhythmic variations, these, quite beyond the 
capacity of the sentimental composer to achieve. 

Another duet follows in which the betrothal of Angelica and 
Gallanthus is brought about to a rather jaunty tune, then a quartet 
of the patter type in which the other two couples, parents and 
children, discuss love and housekeeping. Two, four, and now six, 
for the Hobgoblins and Mediums pair off in a sextet. They declare 
themselves tired of the magic business and propose to retire on 
their savings. 'From public life we evanesce/ This is the cue for 
the Finale, a hornpipe a la Purcell in which all the principals and 
chorus chant their prothalamion: 

Cakes are baking, 

Frocks are making, 

Cooks and modistes all are slaving. 

So the opera ends with increasing animation and the asseveration 
that Love has conquered. 

The Pilgrim's Progress 

What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as 
sweet. And that is the view mostly taken by composers who have 
created a jungle of musical nomenclature by their reckless dis 
regard for the niceties of terminology of their art. But Vaughan 
Williams is more particular and errs in the other direction in that 
he denies the designation ballet to Job and opera to The Pilgrim's 
Progress. Both are works for the musical stage:Jb& is in fact a ballet 
though not, it is true, of the conventional kind, and The Pilgrim s 
Progress is an opera in so far as it involves characters singing in the 
first person in a scenic setting, though admittedly it is not conven 
tionally dramatic. So we read on the title-page that it is a 'Morality 


in a prologue, four acts and an epilogue founded on Bunyan's 
allegory of the same name'. 

The morality plays of the later Middle Ages, of which Everyman 
may be taken as the type, had allegorical texts and their characters 
were abstractions personified, bearing fabricated names like Good 
Deeds in Everyman. Bunyan's allegory is 'in the similitude of a 
dream', recounted partly in narrative and partly in dialogue, and 
from its nature is episodic. Nine episodes from the book are made 
into scenes which are more of the nature of tableaux than of 
dramatic action. The dream is shown in Prologue and Epilogue. 
When the curtain goes up Bunyan is revealed sitting in Bedford 
Gaol writing the last words of The Pilgrims Progress, *So I awoke 
and behold it was a dream'. Then he turns back to the beginning 
and reads the opening words. As he does so the Pilgrim enters 
backstage and while he comes forward Bunyan is blacked out to 
leave the stage to Pilgrim. Bunyan is musically represented by 
the hymn-tune 'York', which is heard again in the Epilogue (c 
pp. 264-5). 


The opera or 'morality', brought to its final form when the 
composer was over seventy-five, is the culmination of a life-long 
preoccupation with The Pilgrims Progress. The Tallis Fantasia of 
1909 shows the first crystallization of the idiom which Vaughan 
Williams was to use for religious themes, and Bunyan as well as 
Tallis had a hand in the making of it, for already the theme had 
been associated with Bunyan in some incidental music to a church 
pageant, and the hymn 'Who would true valour see' was included 
in The English Hymnal of 1906 with a tune 'adapted from a 
traditional English melody' by the editor (i.e. Vaughan Williams) . 
In 1922 came the pastoral episode The Shepherds of the Delectable 
Mountains, which was staged at the Royal College of Music but 
was also sung as an oratorio at a Hereford Festival; it is now incor 
porated bodily into the fourth act of the opera. Twenty years 
later the Fifth Symphony contained two direct references to The 
Pilgrims Progress. The original manuscript declared what the 


printed score has suppressed that some of the themes were taken 
from the then unfinished opera, and the third movement bore the 
superscription beginning 'Upon this place stood a cross and a little 
below a sepulchre' (see p. 48). 

The twentieth-century composer thus finds some basic affinity 
with the seventeenth-century writer, unlike Robert Bridges, who 
believing that moral and artistic excellence are but the two faces 
of the same coin rejects the claims of The Pilgrim's Progress to 
satisfy artistic canons at all: Bunyan's crude technique is the 
counterpart of his detestable Calvinism. The Pilgrim who deserts 
his own family to save his own soul is no better than a cad in 
Bridges's view (which does not accord with that ofjesus Christ in 
the Gospels) . But it would seem that for Vaughan Williams, as for 
thousands of readers, the book with the idea of a pilgrimage from 
this world to that which is to come as its core has sufficient art, 
provided the allegory is not pressed too hard, to become coexten 
sive with life itself. All allegories creak here and there and all fall 
short of an exact parallelism. Bridges's verdict, delivered in his 
own reformed spelling, is that 'The languag of life seems tu have 
been translated intu a dialect bi Bunyan and tu need retranslation 
before it can have any meening for us'. Certainly Vaughan 
Williams has done the retranslation, and it may be that with him, 
as for the countless simple folk who still read and keep Bunyan's 
allegory alive, its plain prose is a literary equivalent of the English 
folk-song which has been his musical bible. 

The first act contains two scenes beside the Prologue and an 
Intermezzo which links it to the second act. In the first scene 
Pilgrim meets Evangelist. The Pilgrim's key is G, minor when he 
is aware of his burden of sin, major when he is filled with resolu 
tion to go forth; the Evangelist's is E flat minor when he is 
solemnly adjuring Pilgrim, E major when he brings the Celestial 
City before Pilgrim's eyes. The thematic characterizationis equally 
direct and unambiguous. 

Pilgrim's anxiety is 



Evangelist's stern comfort is 


subsequently varied with the E flat chord containing a second 
instead of a third and so requiring further progression of resolution. 
Pilgrim's resolve contains two elements, which can be seen in 
combination in Ex. 4. 








The light of the Heavenly City is depicted in the same kind of 
triadic harmony but in E major. There is one further representa 
tive theme: the four neighbours, Pliable and Obstinate, Mistrust 
and Timorous, have descending and tremolo chromatic chords 
over a markedly iambic bass. The connecting music to Scene II, 
which covers the change of scene, is agitated, depicting Pilgrim's 
struggles to reach the House Beautiful. "We hear nothing of his 
encounter with Mr. Worldly Wiseman or of Help who extricated 
him from the Slough of Despond. It will be observed that the 
composer has telescoped the meetings with Pliable and Obstinate 
and with Mistrust and Timorous. 

The musical purpose of the second scene is to establish the choral 
nature of the opera and reaffirm its visionary character even at the 
expense of the dramatic. The place at which Pilgrim has arrived 
with much toil from the weight of his burden was the ascending 
ground where 'stood a cross and a little below in the bottom a 
sepulchre'. In Bunyan his burden rolls off and falls downhill into 
the sepulchre, but in the opera it is removed by the Three Shining 
Ones, who with the Interpreter and the Men and Women of the 
House Beautiful carry on a choral colloquy with Pilgrim, 

Here at the beginning is the reference to the Fifth Symphony, 


from the third movement of which the opening chords and cor 
anglais tune are borrowed (in a transposed version). 




Pilgrim stumbles to the foot of the Cross and Ex. 2, symbolical 
of his anguish, is mingled with the horn chords of the animato 
section (p. 79 of the score of the symphony), as the Pilgrim cries 
out to be saved. Singing is heard off stage as the Three Shining 
Ones chant in a unison that breaks down into three-part harmony 
'Cast thy burden upon the Lord'. When Pilgrim replies he does so 
in the words originally quoted in the Fifth Symphony, 'He hath 
given me rest by his sorrow and life by his death', to the accom 
paniment of the complete cor anglais tune which is the first sub 
ject of the Romanza movement. Bunyan says that Christian was 
'glad and lightsome when he said this with a merry heart' but 
Vaughan Williams maintains a mood of rapt solemnity. 

The opening sequence of four chords, of Ex. 21 in the Fifth 
Symphony, extended here as there to six, is repeated while the 
Shining Ones, now present on the stage, pronounce their greet 
ing. Then for the introduction of the Interpreter the key goes to 
A major and arpeggios begin to flow beneath the chords. When 
the Interpreter speaks we hear, in G, the music of the pilgrimage of 
which Ex. 4 is an epitome, and a chorus grows out of it in which 
triplets are wreathed over homophonic choral writing a little (but 
not much) like that of the Sanctus in the B minor Mass. The 
dialogue between Pilgrim and Interpreter is carried on in diatonic 
conjunct melody over an accompaniment which is drawn from the 
same stock of ideas as provided the theme of the Passacaglia in the 
Fifth Symphony (cf. Ex. 30, p. 51). Underneath, D is sustained as 
a pedal point. The blessing of Pilgrim is with a chorale-like tune: 


LI r 

sung first by Interpreter and taken up by the Three Shining Ones 
and then by the chorus. The writing is still in flowing diatonic 


lines, which cross and are descanted by the orchestra into a har 
monic texture which looks, and sounds, like this: 


When Acts I and II are performed without a break a Nocturne is 
played and sung as an intermezzo. This was an afterthought com 
posed during rehearsals but proved to be one of the most moving 
episodes in the opera. Watchful the Porter comes downstage, 
the curtain falls behind him and after some preliminary arioso 
he sings Psalm cxxi to the accompaniment of a recurrent phrase: 

The vocal line is again diatonic and conjunct but saved from 
squareness by the rhythm which introduces triplets among its even 
crotchets. Counterpoints to Ex. 8 are generated as the music pro 
ceeds, and Ex. 8, in whole or in part or in suggestion, appears 
frequently in imitation. There is a certain amount, with many 
optional abbreviations indicated, of music available to cover the 
requirements of scene-changing. The last stage direction is 'The 
stage lights up gradually behind the curtain'. 

The second act is in two scenes, the arming of Pilgrim and his 
fight with Apollyon. A trumpeter, a herald, and a scribe occupy 
the centre of the stage with the chorus ranged on either side. The 
scene depicts an open road: on the right of it is the Armoury. The 
chief musical feature of the first scene is the setting of Bunyan's 



great hymn 'Who would true valour see* which comes in the 
second part of The Pilgrims Progress in the dialogue between Mr. 
Great-Heart and Mr. Valiant-for-Truth. The trumpeter's fanfare 
foreshadows the shape of the tune 

In free time 


r NIT r J!rr 



Vaughan Williams had years before, when editing The English 
Hymnal, provided a tune for this hymn. This is the now well- 
known tune 'Monks Gate', an adaptation of the English traditional 
melody 'Our Captain Calls' collected by Vaughan Williams from 
a singer of Monk's Gate near Horsham in 1904. 

Ex. 10a. 


, Brightly J r 112 

id J 
* r 

i: J J J^- 

r * 

r r r 


j - |J J |i ^[J. j | 

^ f p 'f f f ^ZY f 
>^, r i P M-^HH 

i- ir Ir r l-'s^r "M 

J ll j I 


^1 T '' 

The new tune is original: 


Animate maestoso 

Who would true va - lour see, Let him come hi - thv- 

here will 


r ir J 



con-stant be come wind come wea -ther, There's no dis - cour - age-ment Shall make him 


* 1 

* j 


once re - lent his first a -vowed in-tent to be a pil - grim 


Between the second and the third verses of the hymn the arming 
of Pilgrim takes pkce. During the singing of the hobgoblin-foul- 
fiend verse, which has an instrumental descant of running triplet 
quavers, Pilgrim draws his sword and walks through the lines of 
the chorus as if to start up the Pilgrim's road. A stage trumpeter 
heralds him forth on his way. In the entracte is heard the approach 
of an evil force, depicted, as in ]ol and elsewhere, by chromatic 
semitones and leaps of a seventh. 

In. three octaves 

9 J ^ * Tt>i* b^ * \>f \ J _' 

P cresc. 

This, the foul fiend, and Pilgrim's hymn Ex. 10 now contend by 
alternating and coinciding and finally broadening out and leading 
into Scene n, the fight with Apollyon. 

A Chorus of Doleful Creatures shout wordlessly on a dissonant 
chord in the Valley of Humiliation. Chromatic semitones and leaps 
of a seventh are in evidence. Apollyon challenges Pilgrim, singing 
like Fafher through a megaphone, and Pilgrim answers him back; 
the Doleful Creatures moan in false relations. Apollyon stamps 
about in chords based on 


The staging of this scene presents difficulties because anything 
representational suggests Lewis Carroll's "slithy toves'. Yet there 
must be something sufficiently formidable to make credible the 
contest between Christian and Apollyon, in which each forces the 
other down. At the end Pilgrim is shown standing over Apollyon 
with his sword at his heart. The lighting changes, fading out 
Apollyon and fully illuminating Christian, while the hymn- 
melody Ex. lob is heard for the last time, interrupted by the slithy 
toves semitones as the Doleful Creatures make off. Alternative 
stage directions are provided by the composer, as an Appendix 
to Act n, in which however the page references are wrongly 



numbered. Christian grows weak because of his wounds. To him 
appears a Heavenly Being bearing a branch of the Tree of Life 
with a new theme of great simplicity: 

Ex. 13. 






The Branch Bearer himself has a melody in two repeated phrases, 
of which the first is 




LJ Lf If 

' Un - to him that o - ver - com - eth shall be given of the tree of life 

These two themes Exx. 13 and 14 in alternation and combination 
lead to the final episode of the act in which the Evangelist, over 
an accompaniment of swaying triads (F major first inversion and 
D minor root position), adjures Pilgrim to be faithful unto death 
over an ostinato figure and triadic harmony, and gives him the 
Key of Promise: 

Ex. 15. 

This is D major, the key of the Pilgrim's hymn, but it is a D 
major which, though it by no means avoids the tonic, contrives to 
keep itself somehow floating in the air: it ends on a chord of D 
major not in root position but in its second inversion. 

The third act opens with Vanity Fair and ends with Pilgrim in 

The scene is set with booths on the stage and chromatic semi 
tones in the orchestra. To the crowd of Bunyan's allegorical per 
sonifications who jostle with the stock Biblical villains, Judas 
Iscariot, Demas (who deserted St. Paul), Simon Magus, and 
Pontius Pilate, Ursula Wood has added the character of Lord 


Lechery, who is a buffo tenor and has a considerable solo in praise 
of wealth and women. 

Come buy from our booths all the pleasures of man; 
Nothing endures so choose while you can. 
What is value but money? What's life but estate? 
Who wanders alone leaves pleasure too late. 
Here is all that earth offers, and all to be sold, 
For the power and the glory are servants to gold. 

Come and look on our merchandise, dark girl or fair, 
Soft limbs and sweet bosoms with beauties to share. 
Or will you have Hylas to lull you to sleep? 
The pleasures of love are subtle and deep. 

Before, during, and after this song the chorus of traders keeps up 
shouts of 'Buy, what will ye buy?' in consecutive fifths and octaves 
moving in the chromatic semitones which are the symbol of evil. 
Even the images of sensuality, though set in the rich key of F sharp 
major, are heartless music, for the third of the scale is contradicted, 
flattened, used in false relation and chromatic slither. While all the 
racket of the fair is going on Pilgrim enters, turns his back on the 
crowd and sings 'Turn mine eyes lest they behold vanity', to 
which the crowd shriek the retort, 'Vanity, vanity, all is vanity'. 
A procession headed by a jester brings Demas and Judas upon the 
scene, followed by Mesdames Babble and Wanton, who produce 
a slight change in the rhythm of the music. Their episode is 
marked 'andante alia tedesca' and is founded on the juxtaposition 
of C major and E flat, of which Ex. 16 is a typical bar. 

Ex. 16. 




-i - 


Pilgrim's only response to the invitation to buy the merchandise 
offered to him is to ask to buy the truth, which allows Pontius 
Pilate to sing parlando or actually to speak his famous aphorism, 



'What is truth?' Choral uproar breaks out at Pilgrim's reference 
to Beelzebub as the father of lies. Pilgrim is now in full spate of 
denunciation, when trumpet fanfares announce the approach of 
Lord Hate-Good, the legal luminary, before whom Pilgrim is 
haled and by whom he is condemned to imprisonment. The 
crowd drags him off shouting for the death penalty. 

The music of all these episodes is harsh, angular in rhythm, full 
of raw open fifths, using false relation as symbol of that incoher 
ence and disharmony which is evil (cf. the similar treatment of 
Satan in Jot, see p. 305). As music it is of no special interest except 
that it is very much in Vaughan Williams's own idiom. But from 
the point of view of the dramatic plan of the opera the scene is of 
the greatest importance, since it provides the place for spectacle, 
movement, and a major clash here is action, conflict of one 
against many, drama rather than tableau, stout deeds to balance 
the reflective faith of the earlier scenes and of the return to 
quietude in the next scene. 

The second scene of the third act shows the interior of a prison 
with large gates and darkness beyond. The music opens in F minor, 
the chords contain within them a moving part like a fragment of 
plainchant, the motion is smooth and the mood subdued, but the 
semitone drop of chords in root position indicates that evil is still 
triumphant. The time signature is 6/4, but bars of 3/2 intervene 
without notice or apology. The two opening bars do in feet 
illustrate the state of affairs Pilgrim's immobilization, his prayer, 
the persistence of evil. 

Ex. 17. 

The immobility is in the reiterated unmoving C's, the prayer in 
the moving minor parts which are marked cantabile, and evil 
in the consecutive open fifths oscillating by a chromatic semitone. 


The whole scene is an immense monologue for Pilgrim, beginning 
with a melody evocative of a supplicatory plainchant two bars 
with their accompanying harmony serve to epitomize it. 

Ex. J8. 

1 L " ' 

p -0 be thou not 

'KiM, J- iJ=3=t= 

^"P" "P" ^^ 

far from me 

Suddenly, bethinking himself of the key which he carries on him 
Pilgrim breaks into recitative, 'O fool that I am', and with a snatch 
of trumpet fanfare and a phrase from a tune of the same stock as 
the hymn to valour he puts the key into the lock and the gates y 
open. Whereupon Pilgrim breaks into an arioso in which he 
sings paraphrases of psalms first against swaying triads, then over 
sweeping harp arpeggios, then against an elaborate accompani 
ment of counterpoints in cross-rhythms, and finally against tre- 
molando strings (the audible counterpart to the visible moonlight 
of the stage), beneath which voice and instrumental bass have this 
sturdy tune in unison: 



Lead me,. Lord, 

make my ways straight be -fore my face. 

The scene ends with Pilgrim walking along the Pilgrim's Way 
while the orchestra plays its counterpoint of chords in imitation 
and contrary motion in a very firm D major. 

This scene is an elaboration of a paragraph in The Pilgrims Pro 
gress that follows Faithful's martyrdom. Faithful, who in the book 
seemed to be the cause of fiercer resentment among the inhabitants 
of the town of Vanity, does not appear in the opera. Bunyan 
wrote, after describing Vanity Fair and the trial of the two 
Christians by Lord Hate-Good and a jury of no less significantly 
named citizens, 'Thus came Faithful to his end. . . . But as for 
Christian, he had some respite, and was remanded back to prison. 


So he there remained for a space; but he that overrules all things, 
having the power of their rage in his own hand, so wrought it 
about, that Christian for that time escaped them and went his 
way/ The episode of finding the key and opening the gates is 
transferred from the dungeon of Doubting Castle. 

The fourth act deals with the amusing encounter with Mister 
By-Ends, with the episode on the Delectable Mountains and the 
end of the journey to the Celestial City. After all the trumpets 
(and indeed the bells and the voices) have sounded for Pilgrim on 
the other side, John Bunyan takes the stage again and in an 
epilogue offers his book as if to the audience. 

The act opens with a short prelude in which beneath slowly 
swaying triads a variant of Ex. 9, the motto of courageous pil 
grimage, is heard. The passage, which recurs, signifies the coming 
into sight of journey's end. But what happens first is Pilgrim's 
encounter with a woodcutter's boy, singing as he works at his 
faggots. This episode comes from Part II of The Pilgrim's Progress, 
where the character is actually a shepherd boy, who sings a little 
hymn in three stanzas, of which the first is: 

He that is down needs fear no fall, 

He that is low no pride, 
He that is humble ever shall 

Have God to be his guide. 

Mr. Great-Heart and Christian's family encounter him near the 
Valley of Humiliation. In the opera however it is Pilgrim who 
encounters him and appropriates the words of the guide, 'Hark to 
what that boy doth sing. I will dare to say he leads a merrier life 
and wears more of the herb called heart's-ease in his bosom than 
he that is clad in silk and velvet/ Pilgrim then asks if the Celestial 
City is far off, and the boy replies to the music of the intro 
duction that you can see the Delectable Mountains on a clear day 
and then you know you are not far from your destination. The 
boy, in his innocence and anxiety to be helpful, spies the approach 
of one 'who would gladly share your pilgrimage'. It is Mister 
By-Ends with his wife on his arm. The composer characterizes 


this amiable, wordly, worthless couple in a jaunty bit of 
deliberate banality: 


tt ^ 

> r r i 

7 gr ^ "-a 

p scherzando 

1 .a 

[J r ^ 


L ^_^ 

r j. 

4 U- p 

This tune persists through the whole interview but is made 
more vulgar by being tricked out in thirds as the even more 
despicable Madam By-Ends intervenes in the conversation. The 
texture is thinned momentarily for Mister By-Ends's immortal 
remark about his father who 'was a water-man looking one way 
and rowing another' and then warms up again with decorative 
sextuplets in thirds. The interview however soon closes and the 
episode is over. The boy bids him god-speed to one more version 
of the pervasive protean idea out of which the fanfare and the 
hymn (Exx. 9 and lob) are made: 

Ex. 21. 

The key changes from the resolute D major of the journey to a 
bright B major for the vision of the Celestial City, and the texture 
is enriched with massive chords and bell-like swaying triplets. As 
Pilgrim departs, the boy sings the last verse of his hymn to a 
pastoral pipe accompaniment. A cadenza leads to an entracte, 
which is compounded of a 6/8 version of the hymn-tune and a 
recall of Ex. 21. Now follows the Pastoral Episode of 1922, 
slighdy altered in a few small details and shorn of its last few pages 
of harp, bells, and Alleluias, which, have been changed and trans 
ferred to the third and last scene of the act. The division between 
the scenes is marked by the darkening of the stage. 

The Pastoral Episode grows thematically out of a piece of free 
cantilena on the lower strings, a device often employed by the 


composer, of which a conspicuous instance is the beginning of 
the Fantasia on Christmas Carols. This cantilena is in a gapped 
(hexatonic) Dorian mode, is played by the viola senza misura, 
and contains alternations of duplets and triplets to give it 

p senza misura 

The Shepherds, whose names, Knowledge, Experience, and 
Watchful, are jettisoned by the composer so as not to make the 
fresh morning air heavy with allegory, are specified as young, 
middle-aged, and old. They are found singing, as they kneel at 
sunset within sight of the Celestial City, some verses of Psalm xci. 
In the original form this was a solo for the First Shepherd, but 
it is now divided between the three and concludes with them 
singing, tenor, baritone and bass, in unison. A variant of Ex. 22, 
played now on the cello but followed by the other strings in 
imitation, is heard as they rise from their knees to greet the 
Pilgrim. A dialogue straight from Bunyan about the ownership 
and nature of the Delectable Mountains and about Pilgrim's way 
faring follows, all the music being thematically derived from 
Ex. 22. 

But the events as related in Bunyan's book are not followed. 
There is no sight-seeing, no meeting with Hopeful, but there is a 
declamation by Pilgrim in a new, resolute section in 3/4 time and 
an encouragement from the Shepherds to him to appear before 
the presence of God. The invitation to be solaced by the good of 
the Delectable Mountains is accepted and the next section depicts 
what that good is. The music now takes on the chaste sensuousness 
touched with incidental . astringencies, such as we find in Flos 
CampL In purling triplet chords on the strings and a flute 
obbHgato the First Shepherd commends the beauties of the place. 
'Here the air is very sweet and pleasant, here you shall hear con 
tinually the singing of birds and shall see every day flowers appear 
in the land/ The bird song that Pilgrim hears is in fact a setting of 


Psalm xxiii for a soprano voice. The psalm and the continuing 
dialogue go on over a new accompanimental figure of a pastoral 

Ex. 23. 

This considerable section, lyrical, sensuous, charming, has the 
peculiar fresh beauty of those three qualities when they are emptied 
of all erotic content of meaning. Even so Pilgrim is summoned in 
recitative and arioso by a Celestial Messenger to leave these 
delights and prepare to stand before the presence of the Master 
that very day. The Shepherds see him on his way and there is 
pastoral simplicity in the music founded on 

Ex. 24. 

Allegretto tranquillo 

i 1 1 j. i 

p semphce 

which recurs in F minor. 

Pilgrim approaches the River of Death, and now occurs the one 
considerable alteration from the 1922 to the 1951 edition. Instead 
of a held chord to support Pilgrim's cry 1 sink in the deep waters' 
a new agitated accompaniment has been provided of tremolando 
strings and emphatic chordal progressions in the bass. The Shep 
herds come to his aid (in both versions) in academic, imitational 
counterpoint based on 


a suitable vehicle, sanctified by centuries of use for supplications in 
the words of the Psalmist. This in the opera brings the scene to an 

In the earlier version the final section is in E minor and consists 
of swaying Alleluias in triplets with harps and bells pealing. In the 


new version the E natural remains in the bass as a pedal point for 
the first choral Alleluias, on chords of B flat (the key signature 
contains two flats). A fanfare on the trumpet, like Ex. 9, heralds 
and accompanies these shouts from voices in the Celestial City and 
men and women on the bank of the river; a tenor solo from back 
stage sings a triumphant descant, in which the passing E's are 
natural. The clashes of 'tonality, which produce great splendour 
of effect like the billowing of banners of different colours, are 
further sharpened by the antiphonal exchanges between two 
choirs singing (in unison) 

Ex. 26. 

P Al - - Ic - lu - ia Al - 

le - lu - ia 

thus throwing in the Phrygian mode against the major. This 
sequence of chords and intonations is repeated with distant alto 
and soprano soloists in turn chanting the apostrophe to the throne 
of God. A sharp key-change to a clear G major brings the front- 
stage choir to 'Holy, holy, holy' in block harmony, against which 
Ex. 26 is hurled as bells begin to clang. The alternation of clear 
diatonic block harmony with Ex. 26 is sustained with cumulative 
effect until the stage darkens and the sound dies away leaving only 
an echo of the fanfare. 

For the Epilogue the figure of John Bunyan comes before the 
curtain, introduced by the bell-like theme of Ex. i. He begins to 
sing the poem which Bunyan appended to his allegory in which 
he adjures the reader to interpret the dream aright. It is set in 
flowing diatonic four-part harmony in the manner of a hymn 
cf. Ex. 7. There is no accidental to disturb the placid G major 
until two quick flashing plunges into a blazing E major. Back to 
G and the opera ends, as it began, with Ex. i. 

Vivisectional analysis, especially when it is driven to the cata 
loguing method inevitable in discussing an opera scene by scene, 
seems to leave a pile of dry bones where before there was a living 
organism. And indeed it is anatomical in purpose and method, 
designed to isolate for inspection the elements of the composer's 


thought, so that when one returns to the living work of art the 
listener is aware not only of the unity and cohesion of the work 
as it appears to him in immediate perception from stage or score, 
but of the way it has been achieved by the operations of the com 
poser's mind. Such an analysis, if successful, affords an insight into 
the mystery of the way by which imagination and intellect work 
together in the creation of a work of art. 

The basic exercise of the imagination can be seen in its most 
primitive form in the twenty-six musical examples, which con 
stitute the minimum needed to account for the musical substance 
of the opera. In them there appears little repetition, yet to one 
playing through the vocal score on the piano there comes the 
impression that the whole work has eventuated (that hideous 
word seems to be the right description of the process) from a small 
stock of closely related thematic (including of course harmonic 
and rhythmic as well as purely melodic) ideas. What Vaughan 
Williams does with a fanfare motif and kindred gapped scales 
can be seen by comparing for instance Exx. 6 and 9 with Exx. 10 
and 20. From arpeggio or gapped scale to diatonic conjunct 
motifs is a short step: a comparison of Exx. 5, 7, 8, 14 (in 
which the two types of melodic structure are combined), and 
all the Delectable Mountains themes Exx. 22-26, shows how 
various and rich are the melodic possibilities of a few diatonic 
notes without any recourse to chromatics. Then again triadic 
harmony, as shown in Exx. 4, 15, and 23, is all-pervasive and 
expresses here as elsewhere the visionary ideal. The variation and 
combination of these musical images is the work of the intellect. 

The reverse process from intellect to imagination, which are 
obverse and reverse of the cognitive faculty (as distinct from the 
sensuous and emotional faculties of our minds), would appear to 
have been involved in working on the text. To anyone who does 
not know Bunyan's The Pilgrims Progress intimately and cannot 
say whether this or that episode occurs in Christian's or in 
Christiana's pilgrimage the opera appears to present the essence of 
the book, allowing of course for the elimination of the detailed 
theological arguments. The verbal text runs smoothly, the episodes 
seem self-contained and coherent, but in fact a vast amount of 


synthesis has been done by the composer in compiling his own 
'book'. He at any rate knows it backwards as well as forwards, and 
since he can be very drastic in the handling of poems and literary 
sources when setting words to music, the resulting libretto is the 
outcome of an imaginative effort working upon a stock of literary 
knowledge. Certainly, the opera-goer or the student of the score 
will be hard put to it to track to its source in Bunyan the various 
lines that go to make up each scene. Two gross examples have 
been cited in this analysis the telescoping of the prison and Giant 
Despair's dungeon in Act in, Scene 2, and the amalgamation of 
material of the scenes on the Delectable Mountains in both parts 
of The Pilgrim's Progress, together with conflations of phrases and 
sentences from Bunyan and the Psalms. 

The fact is that the long preoccupation with the subject, already 
described at the beginning of this note, involved both intellect and 
imagination in a two-way traffic at the deepest level. "Wagner 
describes how his mind worked on this problem, concept, word, 
and tone being united in ajoint operation that defies chronological 
priority for any element. The purpose of analysis is to show how 
the work of art has come into being. It is for criticism to pro 
nounce how far it is successful. 

Film Music 

Two quotations: 

The action of a film develops along entirely different lines from those 
of a sonata or symphony, or even of a rhapsody or of a symphonic 
poem. It is episodic in its nature and moves straight ahead without 
variation, working-out, or recapitulation. If the music is part of the 
action it is entirely realistic and if it is used as background it is ancillary 
and complementary. It is sometimes used to illustrate, but that is 
generally in a bad film. . . . Music is more frequently used to intensify, 
underline, accelerate, or aggrandize; to cause excitement, and to affect 
the sub-consciousness of the audience. 

These are the words of Ernest Irving, musical director of the 
Baling Studios, who therefore speaks with authority. 1 

1 Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, LXXVI (195)- 


There are two ways of viewing film music: one in which every 
action, wish, gesture or incident is punctuated in sound. This requires 
great skill and orchestral knowledge and a vivid specialized imagination 
but often leads to a mere scrappy succession of sounds of no musical 
value in itself . . . the other method ... is to ignore the details and to 
intensify the spirit of the whole situation by a continuous stream of 

This is Vaughan Williams himself speaking. 1 

Both musicians agree that mere point-by-point illustration is 
not much good, but both in the papers from which these citations 
are extracted allow that the speed of the action in films, the rapid 
changes of scene and sentiment, preclude much continuity and 
allow none of music's most characteristic method of producing its 
effect, namely repetition and development. The problem of recon 
ciling the principle of continuous flow with the practical exigen 
cies of cutting and editing a film is so severe that in the event very 
little music composed for the film studio survives the exhibition 
of the film, Vaughan Williams in the article which he contributed 
to the R.C.M. Magazine while he was still virtually a novice at 
film composition makes some suggestions for collaboration at an 
earlier stage between producers, photographers, and composers, 
but only claims that while things are as they are in film studios 
film music must be intrinsically good of its kind hence the rejec 
tion of the purely illustrative sort of score. Even so the inevitable 
scrappiness of the completed film score ensures that such music 
will rarely achieve any independent life of its own; it will not be 
published, and as Hubert Foss says, 2 it can hardly be criticized 
without seeing the film concurrently with the hearing of its sound 
track. Vaughan Williams, though plunging into the (for him) new 
medium at the age of seventy, was sufficiently successful not only 
to be asked to write more film scores but to have two of them 
recorded and sold on gramophone disks. They are The Loves of 
Joanna Godden (1947) and Scott of the Antarctic (1949). One of them 
has been officially scrapped by the author, tyth Parallel, though he 

1 Royal College of Music Magazine, January 1944; reprinted in Beethoven's Choral 
Symphony and other Writings (1953), 

2 Ralph Vaughan Williams, p. 186. 


raided it for the first tune of the Scherzo of the String Quartet in 
A minor and for the part-song 'The New Commonwealth'. His 
other film scores are The People's Land of 1943, The Story of a 
Flemish Farm (1943) which curiously enough has some connexion 
with the Sixth Symphony, and Stricken Peninsula (1945). 

The music for a film is usually too fragmentary to make a con 
cert suite, as is done so often and so successfully with incidental 
music for plays, but the composer may very well be anxious to 
salvage from oblivion some happy inspiration, some pregnant 
theme, some fine tune. The tune which Vaughan Williams re 
covered from 4$th Parallel and converted into 'The New Com 
monwealth' is such a tune, a big striding tune melodically very 
compact with repeated notes but given wings by rhythmic 
flexibility, and harmonized in the style of a hymn. The words, 
which were inspired by the war emotions of 1943 , when hope was 
succeeding to grim determination, are from the pen of Harold 
Child, the composer's old collaborator in Hugh the Drover. The 
other survivor is the viola theme short and marcato in the string 
quartet (see Ex. i, p. 218). 

The record preserving some of the music of The Loves of Joanna 
Godden contains the following captions: Romney Marsh; Joanna 
Godden; Sheepshearing; Work on the Farm; The Fair; Martin 
drowned at Dungeness; Ellen and Harry Trevor; Adoption of 
Motherless Lamb; Burning of the Sheep; Reunion. The Burning 
of the Sheep episode drew from the composer the remark that this 
was the only time in his long career that he had been asked to set 
foot-and-mouth disease to music. The drowning incident pro 
duced the kind of music that was afterwards in an enhanced degree 
written for the Antarctic film both use wordless female voices to 
convey a sense of desolation. The other subjects show how it is 
possible in a few bars to set a scene, depict a mood, sketch an 
episode, and also how such vignettes, vivid and even perfect as 
they may be, are useless for any other purpose as they stand. The 
Sinfonia Antartica however shows that regarded as raw material 
they can be recomposed into an extended composition. But this is 
a supreme exception to a general rule that such episodic music has 
no inner vitality of its own and, owing to formal restriction that 


precludes repetition and development, is incapable of achieving 
independence of the film. 

The relationship of the film music of Scott of the Antarctic to 
the Sinfonia that was evolved out of it is traced in detail in the 
analysis of the Sinfonia on pp. 68-9. The episodes which were 
recorded are named Prologue, Pony March, Penguins, Climbing 
the Glacier, The Return, Blizzard, Final Music. Of these seven, 
four are used in the symphony the Prologue (with voices) 
depicting the Antarctic, the Penguins in the Scherzo, Climbing 
the Glacier at the opening of the symphony, and the Blizzard in 
the finale. 

The Flemish Farm has left two traces behind in the Sixth Sym 
phony and in a separate suite. The suite has been overlooked and 
had hardly any performances, but the opening of the second and 
fourth movements of the Sixth Symphony drew thematicaUy on 
motifs originally conceived in connexion with the film 
whether they were used eventually in the actual film as exhibited 
the composer does not remember. The orchestra irreverently 
described the one (see Ex. 7 of Symphony No. 6) as 'Two hot 
sausages', a phrase which is a verbal embodiment of the rhythm 
and, apparently, though this was not more than a suggestion, the 
fugue subject owed something to a theme in the film dubbed by 
the orchestra 'Miserable Starkey'. So this film at any rate provided 
raw material that was to be put to more exalted use. 


Adler, Larry, 96, 120 
Allen, Hugh, 255 
Allin, Norman, 189 
Aristophanes, 84, 85, 86 
The Wasps, 82, 83, 84 
Aristotle, 315 
Arnold, Matthew, 183-6 
Austin, Frederick, 238 
Austin, John, 160 

Bach, J. S., 55, 96, 100, 101, 104, 134, 
135, 205, 240 

B minor Mass, 139, 347 

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, 100 

Cantatas, 187 

Chaconne, 187 

Violin Concertos, 100 

Wohltemperirte Klavier (The 48), in 
Baillie, Isobel, 189 
Balfour, Margaret, 189 
Ballet, William, Lute Book, 288-9 
Baring-Gould, S., 252 
Barnes, William, 236, 237 
Bartok, Bela, 228, 239 
Bax, Arnold, 33, 109 
B.B.C. concerts, 109, 172, 235 
Beecham, Thomas, 86 
Beethoven, Ludwig van, i, 30, 42, 43, 

Choral Fantasia, 181 

Emperor Concerto, 96 

Fidelio, 194 

Mass in D, 139 

Romances for violin, 97 


in, i, 51, 69 
rv, i 


VI (Pastoral), i, 10, 67 
IX, i, 3, 31, 33, 181 
Beggar's Opera, The, 253, 325 
Berg, Alban 

Lulu, 70 
Berlioz, Hector 

Symphonic Fantastique, u 
Bernard, Anthony, 248 
Bible, The 
Authorized Version, 150 

Bible, The contd. 

Apocrypha, 193 

Taverner's, 150 

Chronicles, 193 

Isaiah, 192, 193 

Revelation, 151 

Song of Songs (Solomon), 142, 

Blake, William, 142, 302 

Illustrations to the Book of Job, 299, 

308, 309, 311 
Blech Quartet, 226 
Bliss, Arthur 

Morning Heroes, 194 
Boito, Arrigo, 270, 274, 290 
Bolm, Adolf, 248 
Bonavia, Ferrucio, 271 
Boult, Adrian, 12, 22, 33, 160, 172, 188, 


Brahms, Johannes, I, 87, 96, 104, 115, 
126, 236, 239 

Clarinet Quintet, in 

St. Anthony Variations, 247 

Schicksalslied, 114, 184, 186 


ni, 21, 31, 137 

IV, u, 31 

Bridges, Robert, 42, 239, 345 
Bright, John, 169, 170 
British National Opera Company, 254 
Britten, Benjamin, 195 

Spring Symphony, 70 
Broadwood, Lucy, 127, 195, 198, 234, 


Bruch, Max, 96 
Brunskill, Muriel, 189 
Bunyan, John, 42, 46, 344, 345, 347, 

355, 359 

The Pilgrim's Progress, 41, 48, 49, 90, 
344, 345, 349, 354, 355, 360, 361 
'Who would true valour see*, 349 
Burns, Robert, 237 
Butterworth, George, 12, 21, 200 
Byrd, William, 134, 136, 137, 274, 279, 

Masses, 135, 139 

Camargo Society, 300 


366 INDEX 

Cambridge, u, 83, 171, 229, 245, 324, 

Carol Books: 

Cowley, 127 

Gilbert and Sandys, 127 

Neale and Helmore, 127 

Oxford, 242, 251 

Piae Cantiones, 127 

Stainer and Bramley, 127 
Caxton, 171 
Chappell, William, 195, 199, 280, 286 

Popular Music of the Olden Time, 195, 


Chaucer, 188 

Child, Harold, 242, 253, 254, 363 
Coates, Albert, 165 
Coates,John, 238 
Cobbett, W.W., 215, 216 
Cohen, Harriet, 109 
Coleridge, S. T., 75 
Colles, H. C., 145 
Cooper, Martin, 65, 66 

George VI, 188, 244 

Elizabeth II, 135, 156, 188, 238, 243 
Cowley, Abraham, 132 
Crashaw, Richard, 132, 239 

d'Aranyi, Jelly, 97 
D'Urfey, Thomas 

Wit and Mirth, 288 
de Valois, Ninette, 300 
Debussy, Claude, 12, 75, 146 

Pelleas et Mtlisande, 317 

Dr. Gradus ad Pamassum, in 
Delius, Frederick, 81, 190, 195 

Brigg Fair, 228 

Paris, II, 13 

Desmond, Astra, 163, 172, 189 
Diaghilev, Serge, 248, 300 
Dickens, Charles, A Christmas Carol, 


Donne, John, 78, 132 
Dvordk, Antonin, I, 32, 83, 228 
Dykes J. B., 225 
Dyson, George, 22 

Easton, Robert, 189 
Edwards, Richard 

'In going to my naked bed', 291 
Elgar, Edward, 32, 97, 125, 171 

Carillon, 194 

Cockaigne, 18 

Elgar, Edward contd. 

Dream ofGerontius, 123, 150 

'Fly, singing bird', 241 

For the Fallen, 192 
Ellis, R B., 12 
English County Songs, 130, 198, 203, 

334, 235 
English Hymnal, 87, 156, 225, 226, 238, 

242, 287, 344, 349 
English Singers, 203 
EpHogue described, 21, 61 
Euripides, Tlie Trojan Women, 166 
Everyman, 344 

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, 279 

Fletcher, John, 235, 298 


'Acre of land, An*, 201 

'Agincourt Song', 188 

'Awake, awake, you pretty pretty 
maid', quoted 198 

'Avenging and Bright', 1 14 

'Bacca Pipes', 250 

'Barrack Hill', 231 

'Beginning of the World, The*, see 
'Sellenger's Round 1 

'Black-eyed Susan*, 286 

'Black Nag', 251 

'Blackthorn Stick, The', 231 

'Bold Princess Royal, The', 8 

'Bold Young Fanner, A', 247 

'Brigg Fair', 228 

'Bushes and Briars', 229, 236 

'Captain's Apprentice, The', 229, 230 
'Carman's "Whistle, The', 274 
'Cherry Tree Carol', 127, 251, 252 
'Cock o' the North', 231 
'Cold blows the wind*, 235 
'Come all ye faithful Christians', 234 
*Come all you worthy gentlemen*, 

127, quoted 129, 131 
'Cuckoo, The', 200, 231 

'Dives and Lazarus', 200, 228, quoted 

234, 244, 257 
'Early in the Spring*, 197 

'First Nowell, The*, 128, 129, 131, 

248, 249 
*Fisher Laddie, The 5 , 247 

'Gilderoy*, 234 

'Go and enlist for a Sailor', 246 

*God rest you merry*, 127, 249, 250 

'Golden Vanity, The', 7 
'Green Bushes', 233 
'Green Meadow, The', 200 
'Greensleeves', 250, 285, 288, 293 

'Half Hannikin', 272, 295 
'Haste to the Wedding', 249 
'High Germany', 233 
'Holly and the Ivy, The', 198 
'Hunsdon House', 251, 304 

'In Bethlehem. City', 203-4 

'Irish Reel', 231 

'I saw three ships', 127 

'Jamaica', 250 

'Jenny pluck pears', quoted 304 

'John Barleycorn', 201, 233 

'John come kiss me now', 279-80, 

283, 294 
'Jolly Thresherman, The', 247 

'Keel Row, The r , 262 

'Lark in the morn, The', 197 
'Lavender Cry', 10 
'Lawyer, The', 200 
'Lovely Joan*, 282 
'Lovely on the water', 228 

'Matthew, Mark', see 'The White 

'May Song', 197, quoted 198, 264, 


'Morris Processional*, 258 
'Murder of Maria Marten', 234, 257 
'My Bonny Boy', 233 
'My sweetheart's like Venus', 225 

'Old Wife of Dallowgill, The', 290 
'On Board a Ninety-Eight', 229, 230 
'On Christmas Night', 127, quoted 

130, 131, 250, 252 
'Our Captain calls', 349 
'Oyster Girl, The', 247 

Teg a' Ramsey*, 287, 288, 290, 291 
'Pretty Caroline*, 232 
'Putney Ferry', 250, 251 

'Queen's Birthday, The', 251 
'Robin Hood and the Bishop', 278 

'Sailor from Sea, A', 276 

'Sailor loved a farmer's daughter, A', 

'Scarborough Fair*, 202 

INDEX 367 

'Searching for Lambs', n, 14, 129, 

'Seeds of Love, The', 28, 200, 229, 

251, 257 

'Sellenger's Round*, 274, 279 
'Seventeen come Sunday', 232 
'Sheep Shearing, The', 200 
'Sir Roger de Coverley', 250 
'Speed the Plough', 288 
'Sprig of Thyme, The', 200 
'Springtime of the Year, The', 228 
'Star of the County Down, The', 234 
'Street Cries', 256 
'Sumer is icumen in', 199 
'Sussex Mummers' Carol', 202, 204 

'There is a fountain', 127 

'Thresher, The', 235 

'Tink a Tink', 249 

'To shallow rivers', 286 

'To the Ploughboy', 197 

'Triumph, The*, 250 

'Truth sent from above, The*, 127, 

quoted 128 
'Tuesday Morning', quoted 258 

'Unquiet Grave, The', 201 

'Virgin most pure, A', 127 

'Virgin Unspotted, The', 128, 131, 

'Vrai dieu d'amour', 278 

'Wassail Bough, The', 130, 131 
'Wassail Song' (Glos), 202, (Yorks), 

128, quoted 203 
'White Paternoster, The', ('The 

Evening Prayer'), 125, 252 
Ford, Walter, 238 
Fornsete, John of, 199 
Foss, Hubert J., v, 97, 124, 126, 132, 362 
Franck, C6sar, 32, 40 

Garnett, Richard, 325, 326, 327 

The Twilight of the Gods, 325 
German, Edward 

Merrie England, 253 
Gilbert and Sullivan, 253, 325 

Rstddigore, 334 

The Mikado, 333 

The Yeomen of the Guard, 328 
Gilbert, W. S., 328 
Gilchrist, Anne, 290, 295 
Goossens, Leon, 117, 120 
Greene, H. Plunket, 124, 238 

368 INDEX 

Hadley, Patrick, 84 
Hall, Henry, 92, 93 
Hall, Marie, 97, 117, 120 
Hammond, H. E. D., 278 
Handel, G. E, 96, 98, 205 

Saul, Dead March, 169 

St. Cecilia Ode, 190 
Hawkes, Jacquetta 

A Land, 76, 208 
Hawkins, Sir John 

History of Music, 287-8 
Hawthorn, Nathaniel, 327 

Mosses from an old Manse, 325 
Haydn, Josef, 139 
Henderson, Roy, 172, 190 
Herbert, George, 132 
Heywood, Thomas 

A Woman kilkd with Kindness, 279 
Hoist, Gustav, 36, 37, 72, 135, 163, 269 

At the Boar's Head, 269 

Festival Chime, 225 

'Jupiter 1 , 242 

Ode to Death, 164 

The Planets, 164 

St. Paul's Suite, 92, 93 

Savitri, 317 

Songs for voice and violin, 240 
Hoist, Imogen, 248 
Honegger, Arthur 

King David, 194 
Housman, A. E., 213, 215, 240 

A Shropshire Lad, 214 
Hucbald, 89, 100, 138 
Huddersfield Choral Society, 165 

'Aberystwyth', 225, 226 

'Abinger', 242 

'Bryn-Calfaria', 225 

'Crug-y-bar', quoted 225 

'Gloria in excelsis Deo* (plainsong), 

'Hollingside', 225, 226 

Hyftydol 1 , 225 

'King's Weston*, 243 

'Lasst uns erfreuen*, 48, 51 

'Miles Lane*, 243 

'Monks Gate*, 349 

'Old looth', 156, 243 

'Old I04th', quoted 181 

*O sacrum convivium*, 133 

'Rhosymedre*, 225 

'St. Denio', 225 

'St Mary', 286, 287 

'Sine nomine', 238, 242 
'The Stilt', 265 
'York', quoted 264, 344 

International Society for Contem 
porary Music 

Geneva 1929, 144 

London 1931, 160 

Oxford 1931, 300 
Ireland, John 

'Sea Fever', 237 
Irving, Ernest, 65, 66, 68, 361 

Jacob, Gordon, 233 
Jarred, Mary, 189 
Jones, Parry, 189 
Jonson, Ben 

Cynthia's Revels, 284 

The Devil is an Ass, 277n 

"The Triumph', 277 

Time Vindicated, 295 

Kennedy, Douglas, 248 

Keynes, Geoffrey, 299, 300, 301, 302n, 

Kipling, Rudyard 

Puck ofPook's Hill, 193 

Lambert, Constant, 228, 247, 300 
Leather, Mrs. E. M., 128 
Leeds Festival, 4, 87, 123 
Leigh, Walter, 84 
Leith Hill Festival, 154, 160 
Leveridge, Richard, 286 
Lewis, Cecil Day, 183 
Liszt, Franz, n 
Lloyd, C. Haxford, 84 
Luther, Martin, 160 

Macfarren, George, 84, 195 
McInnes,J. Campbell, 133 
Mahler, Gustav 

Symphony No. 8, 3 
Marlowe, Christopher 

Passionate Shepherd, 286 
Masefield, John, 272, 273 
Mendelssohn, Felix, 62, 67, 96, 137, 236 

Lobgesang, 3 

Italian Symphony, n 

Scottish Symphony, u 
Menges String Quartet, 92, 218, 219 
Meredith, George, 97 



Middleton, Thomas 

The Chaste Maid ofCheapside, 277 
Moeran, E.J., 195 
Mozart, W. A., n, 139, 325 

Cos] fan tutte, 326 

Jupiter Symphony, 31, 33 
Miihlfeld, Richard, in 
Mukle, May, 211, 228 
Mullinar, Michael, 54, 181 
Mussorgsky, Modeste 

Boris Godunov, 317 

Nash, Heddle, 189 

National Gallery concerts, 219 

Nevinson, Mrs. H. W. (Evelyn Sharp), 


Newman, Ernest, 184 
Noble, Tertius, 84 
Norwich Festival, 172, 300 

Orr, Robin, 84 
O'Sullivan, Seumas, 240 
Oxford, 171, 182, 268, 300 
Oxford History of Music, 144 

Palestrina, 136 

Parratt, Walter, 84 

Parry, C. H. H., 8, 84, 87, 124, 183, 185 

English Lyrics, 238 

Judith, 150 
Peele, George 

The Arraignment of Paris, 298 
Plato, 123, 150 
Playford, John 

The English Dancing Master, 249, 25 1 , 
288, 295, 304 

Introduction to the Skill of Mustek, 280 
Promenade Concerts, 41, 96, 120, 189, 


xxiii, 358 

xxvii, 265 

Ixvi, 265 

xci, 357 

c, 154, 289 

cxxi, 348 

cxxxvii, 286 

Daye's, 156 

Genevan, 156 

Prys's Welsh Psalter, 287 

Ravenscroft's, 156, 181, 265 

Sternhold and Hopkins, 182 

Puccini, Giacomo, 315 

Gianni Schicchi, 178 
Purcell, Henry, 92 

St. Cecilia Ode, 190 

Rachmaninov, Sergei, 96 
Ravel, Maurice, 213 
Raverat, Gwendoline, 300, 301 
Respighi, Ottorino, 116 
Richmond, Bruce, 254 
Rim sky-Korsako v 

Coq d'Or, 325 
Rootham, Cyril 

The Two Sisters, 246 
Rosseter, Philip 

A Book ofAyres, 295 
Rossetti, D. G., 124, 126, 132, 236, 237 
Royal Academy of Music, 329 
Royal College of Music, n, 229, 253, 
254, 255, 268, 344 

R.C.M. Magazine, 21, 53, 362 
Royal Musical Association, 68n, 36" in 
Royal Philharmonic Society, 22, 54, 68 
Rural Music Schools, 188, 204 
Russell, Bertrand, 134 

Sadler's Wells Theatre, 254, 269 
St. Cecilia Festival, 96, 190 
Sargent, Malcolm, in, 254, 268 
Schools Music Association, 188, 207 
Schubert, Franz, 40, 140 
Schumann, Robert, 104, 140 

Rhenish Symphony, n 
Schiitz, Heinrich 

Passions, 136 

Schweitzer, Albert, 55, 134 
Sellick, Phyllis, 96 

Shakespeare, William, 192, 241, 270, 
271, 278 

Hamlet, 286 

Henry IV, Part II, 283 

Love's Labour's Lost, 281 

Merchant of Venice, 190 

Merry Wives of Windsor, 269, 271, 
272, 274, 289, 296, 297 

Twelfth Night, 288 
Sharp, Cecil, 127, 128, 129, 195, 197, 

199, 200, 201, 227, 229, 230, 233, 

248, 249, 276, 282, 290 
Sharp, Evelyn (Mrs. Nevinson), 325, 


Shaw, G. Bernard, 166 
Shawe-Taylor, Desmond, 66 

370 INDEX 

Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 70, 242 
Shore, Bernard, 207 
Shove, Fredegond, 240 
Shrubsole, "William, 243 
Sibelius Jan, i, 31, 38, 43, 44, 81, 96 

Symphony No. 5, 44 
Sidney, Philip, 289 
Skelton,John, i7ifE 
Smetana, Bedrich, 83 

The Bartered Bride, 257, 273 
Smith, Cyril, 96 
Songs of Praise, 225, 242 
Songs of the West, 252 
Spenser, Edmund 

Eptihalamium, 245 
Stanford, C. V., 84, 215, 275, 276 
Stevenson, R. L., 124, 236, 253 
Stewart, Jean, 218 
Stiles-Allen, Lillian, 189 
Still, John 

Gammer Gurton's Needle, 279 
Strauss, Richard, n, 37, 65, 125, 143 
Suddaby, Elsie, 189 
Sumsion, Herbert, 181 
SyngeJ. M^, 316 

Taylor, Jeremy, 239 

Tchaikovsky, P. L, i, 21, 32, 40, 67, 96 


Terry, Richard R., 135 
Tertis, Lionel, in, 117, 120 

Gloucester, 87, 127, 181 

Hereford, 22, 127, 344 

Worcester, 127, 132, 133, 163 
Titterton, Frank, 189 
Toye, Francis, 270, 271 
Toye, Geoffrey, 12 
Traherne, Thomas, 132 

Udall, Nicholas 
Ralph Roister Doister, 298 


(Where a work is discussed in 
detail the principal page refer 
ence is italicized.) 
Benedicite, 104, 154, 160-3 
Bridal Day, The, 245 

Choral Hymns, see Three Choral 

Choral Songs, see Six Choral Songs 



Festival Te Deutn, 244 
'O taste and see', 238 
Preludes for organ, 225 
Service in D minor, 243, 
'The Souls of the Righteous*, 244 
Te Deum in G, 244 

Accademico (violin), 9 


Grosso, 82, 188^04-7! 
Oboe, 96, ^17-20} 120 
Piano, 32, 96 

'Dives and Lazarus', see Five Vari 

ants, 255-5, also Folk-tunes 
Dona Nobis Pacem, 165-70, 192 

English Folk Song, Six Studies in, 

211, 228 
English Folk-Song Suite, 228, 232-3 

Fantasia on Christmas Carols, 126-31 

228, 248, 357 
Fantasia on the Old Hundred and 

Fourth, 181-2 

Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes, 228 
Fantasia on a Theme bv Thomas 

Tallis, 12, 41, 56, 82,$86-o_i1 95, 

127, 132, 135,' 344 *"* 


Flemish Farm, 66, 363, 364 

Forty-ninth Parallel, 218, 223, 242, 
362, 363 

Loves of Joanna Goddcn, 362, 363 

People's Land, The, 363 

Scott of the Antarctic, 64, 66, 68, 362 

Stricken Peninsula, 363 
Five Mystical Songs, 127, 132-3, 150, 


Five Tudor Portraits, 171-80 
Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus', 

2 33~5 

Flos Campi, 2, 51, 141-50, 303, 357 
Folk-Songs of the Four Seasons, 188, 

Four Hymns, 23940 

House of Life, 124, 126, 237-8 
Household Music, 211, 224-6 
Hugh the Drover, 102, 197, 233, 245 

253-68, 317, 363 
Hundredth Psalm, The> 154 

In the Fen Country, 82-83 

Job, 2, 47, 61, 106, 142, 153, 156, 178, 
245, 299-314, 314, 343 

Lark Ascending, The, 96, 97-99, 117, 
120, 211, 330 

Magnificat, 163-5 

Mass in G minor, 133-41 

National Music, 156, 273 
Norfolk Rhapsodies, 82, 87, 228, 

Old King Cole, 245-7 
On Christmas Night, 128, 245, 247-52 
On WenlockEdge, 211, 213-15 
Oxford Elegy, An, 182-6, 194 

Partita for Double String Orchestra, 


Phantasy Quintet, 215-17 
Pilgrim's Progress, The, 2, 46, 49, 50, 

Poisoned Kiss, The, 97, 113, 178, 241, 
245,262,263, 317,324-43 

Riders to the Sea, 245, 314-24 
Romance for Harmonica, 96, 120-2 
Running Set, The, 228, 230-1 

Sancta Civitas, 2, 123, 150-4 
Serenade to Music, 189-91, 226, 241, 

Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, 

The, 41, 42, 344, 356 
Sinfonia Antartica, 3, 32, 64, 66(67-81^ 

104, 120, 364 
Sir John in Love, 113, 180, 245, 268- 

298, 317, 338 
Six Choral Songs, 242 
Song of Thanksgiving, 189, 192-4 


'Along the field*, 241 

'Ballade du Jesus Christ', 238 

'Blackenmore by the Stour', 237 

'Bredon Hill', 214 

'Come Love, come Lord', 239 

'Clun', 214 

'Death in Love*, 238 

'England, my England', 242 

'Evening Hymn', 240 

INDEX 371 

SONGS contd. 
'Fancy's KnelT, 241 
'From far, from eve and morning', 


'Goodbye', 241 

'Half-moon westers, The', 241 
'Heart's Haven', 23 8 
'Infinite Shining Heavens, The', 

214, 238 

'In the morning', 241 
'In the spring', 237 
'Is my team ploughing?', 214 
'L'amour de moy*, 238 
'Linden Lea', 236, 237 
'Lord come away', 239 
'Love's Last Gift', 238 
'Love's Minstrels', 237 
'New Commonwealth, The', 242, 


'New Ghost, The', 240 
'Oh when I was in love with you', 


'Orpheus with his lute', 241 
'Roadside Fire, The', 236, 238, 

253, 260 

'See the chariot', 237, 294, 338 
'Sigh that heaves the grasses, The', 

8, 241 

'Silent Noon', 236, 237 
'Song of the New Age, A', 241 
'Sound Sleep*, 241 
'Vagabond, The', 238 
'Water mill, Hie', 240 
'We'll to the woods no more*, 


'Whither shall I wander', 236 
'Who is this fair one?', 239 
*With rue my heart is laden*, 241 
Songs of Travel, 123, 133, 214, 238 
Sons of Light, 188, 207-10, 226 
String Quartet No. i, 211-13 

No. 2, 217-24 
Suite for Pipes, 211, 224-6 
Suite for Viola, 111-16, 117, 120, 211 


The Sea, I, fp-i<y73, 123, I33> 

253 / -. 

The London, i, 40-21} 22, 32, 53, 

54, 61, 75, I5L 253, 274 
The Pastoral, i, 2,{22-2pl54, 151, 
253 J 



No. 4 in F minor, i, 2, 3,jH<Q 

42, 47, 56, 61 
No. 5 in D, I, 2, 3, i6,gj-5J 60, 

120, 344, 346, 347 
No. 6 in E minor, I, 2, 3, 32, 42, 

The Antarctic, 3, 32, 
104, 120, 364 

Tallis Fantasia, see Fantasia on a 
Theme by Thomas Tallis 

Thanksgiving for Victory, see A Song 
of Thanksgiving 

Three Choral Hymns, 154, 156-60 

Toward the Unknown Region, 4, 9, 
87, 123-6 

Wasps, The, 82, 83-86, 87, 245 
Willow Wood, 123, 124, 132 

Verdi, Giuseppe, 30, 271, 274, 315 
Falstaff, 270, 271, 290 

Waddington, S. P., 254 

Wagner, Richard, 65, 265, 275, 314, 

315, 317, 3i8, 361 
Tristan, 145 

Wagner, Richard contd. 

Parsifal, 334 

Walker, Ernest, 52, 195, 239 
Walton, William, 32 

Viola Concerto, 137 
Watts, Issac, 239 
Weber, Carl M, RE. 

Der Freischutz, 334 
Weelkes, Thomas, 297 
Whitman, Walt, 3, 6, 9, 54, 123, 126, 
132, 167, 169, 240, 253 

After the sea-ship, 7 

Dirge for Two Veterans, 166, 168 

Drum Taps, 167 

Leaves of Grass, 4 

Passage to India, 8 

Sea Drift, 4 

Whispers of Heavenly Death, 9, 126 
Wicksteed, Joseph, 302 
Widdop, Walter, 189 
Wilkinson, Frederick, 248 
Williams, Harold, 190 
Wilson, Steuart, 183, 239 
Women's Institutes, 188, 196, 204 
Wood, Charles, 84, 287 
Wood, Henry J., 144, 189 
Wood, Ursula, 208, 351 

104 192